Jacksonville Daily Progress
There was much enthusiasm in the air Thursday afternoon as nearly 100 people packed into the lobby of Citizens First Bank to welcome Brenda Slaton, newly-appointed superintendent of Rusk State Hospital, to the job.
The parking lot was packed. At least one guest double parked.
Rusk Mayor Angela Raiborn was among the first on hand to offer Slaton a hearty welcome and the highest of praises to Rusk State Hospital.
"It's the finest mental health facility in the state of Texas," she said.
Numerous dignitaries in the field of mental health attended the event, which was hosted by the Rusk Industrial Foundation.
Dr. Kyle Janek, executive commissioner of Texas Health & Human Services was also honored there, receiving a proclamation from Mayor Raiborn even as Slaton received a bouquet of flowers, both for their commitment to mental health.
Those present in addition to the mental health officials – among others – included District 11 State Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, Jacksonville Mayor Kenneth Melvin, Texas Department of criminal justice warden Tommie Haynes, outgoing Cherokee county District Attorney Elmer Beckworth and Rusk ISD Superintendent Scot Davis.
Slaton, a 30-year employee of Rusk State Hospital with a significant history in mental health service advocacy, beamed as she accepted her bouquet and thanked the audience for attending.
Afterward, she briefly talked with a reporter about the challenges facing her profession and her new position – recruitment and retention being on top of that list for sure, but the rest being kind of a blur as she tries to acclimate to her new role in the institution.
"At this point, we're still evaluating everything," she said.
Slaton replaces outgoing Superintendent Ted Debbs. Debbs departed Sept. 1 to become the executive director of Anderson-Cherokee Community Enrichment Services – a Jacksonville-based community health center serving Cherokee and Anderson Counties.
Slaton helped establish the Family House, which provides overnight accommodations for families visiting loved ones who are patients.