Brenda Slaton, a 30-year employee of Rusk State Hospital with a powerful history in mental health service advocacy, faces challenges ahead as the institution's newly-appointed superintendent.
Slaton replaces outgoing Superintendent Ted Debbs, who left Sept. 1 to become the executive director of Anderson-Cherokee Community Enrichment Services, which is a Jacksonville-based community health center serving Cherokee and Anderson Counties.
Slaton, who helped establish the Family House — which provides overnight accommodations for families visiting loved ones who are patients — started work Monday. On her “to do” list is waiting for an impending visit from the Joint Commission accreditation agency, plus waiting out possible financial cuts from the Texas Legislature.
But her contemporaries believe Slaton is certainly up to the job. They say she was promoted because of her empathy and dedication to serving the patients of the 335-bed Rusk State Hospital, which provides inpatient psychiatric treatment and care for much of East Texas.
"She demonstrates a strong commitment to the values and goals of the State Hospital System,” Terry Palya, executive assistant at the Texas Department of State Health Services' central office in Austin, said in an issued statement.
Through a spokesperson, Slaton declined to be interviewed, providing only a short written biography and a photo by email.
The aforementioned visit by the Joint Commission, the accreditation entity for Rusk State Hospital, could come at any time. During the last, Feb. 18, 2010 survey, the Joint Commission — an independent, not-for-profit organization — gave the institution high marks, determine RSH was in compliance with all standards at the time. A call to the Joint Commission employee about this next visit was not immediately returned Wednesday.
To earn and maintain such accreditation, an organization must undergo an on-site survey by a Joint Commission survey team at least every three years. The Joint Commission evaluates health care organizations in synchronicity with nationally-recognized guidelines — including the organization’s level of performance in areas of patient rights, patient treatment and infection control. Additionally, the hospital's ability to provide safe and high-quality care is scrutinized.
Another concern is the possibility of budget cuts when the gavel hits on the 83rd Texas Legislature starting in January. Such cuts have been a continuing possibility for years.
Officials say Slaton's work good work for Rusk Hospital stands the test of time. The Family House she helped establish, for instance, currently accommodates seven people and has a kitchen.
An employee of RSH since 1978, the new superintendent graduated from high school in Rusk and earned a degree at Stephen F. Austin University, her biography shows.
Slaton, Palya wrote, most recently served the hospital as director for several of RSH's patient care units. But she initially began there as a social worker. Her initial responsibilities as a social worker led to her assuming leadership positions with RSH work groups, including establishing the Family House and facilitating communication with communicate providers and the legal system.
One of her earliest assignments as a social worker was on the institution's Sky View unit. For years, she was a director of special projects and was also responsible for coordination of activities between the hospital and the community mental health authorities that refer individuals for inpatient services.
Slaton has served as director of several patient units at the hospital, including that of the Cypress patient unit immediately prior to her appointment as superintendent. Cypress is comprised of over 100 of the Rusk Hospital's beds.
Slaton has long had an interest in working with other entities that comprise the state mental health system of services — as well as with initiatives that provide advocacy for mental health services in Texas, officials said.
She has worked with the Lufkin/Nacogdoches and Houston chapters of the National Alliance for Mental Illness and has served on the planning committee of annual Mission Possible educational conference.
She is married to David Slaton and has two adult sons and three grandchildren.
- Local News
JPD dispatcher killed in wreck
A dispatcher for the Jacksonville Police Department was killed Monday on her way to work, according to officials.
Amber Enge, 35, of Whitehouse was pronounced dead at the scene of a one-vehicle wreck Monday afternoon on CR 2177 in Whitehouse.
CR speed limit changes, E-filling fee top agenda
On Monday, Cherokee County commissioners set April 28 to hold public hearings concerning the changing speed limits on two county roads.
Religious lines drawn: Protesters met by members of Church of Wells
Other than a few community members' voices that rose above the crowd, the protest Saturday against the Church of Wells remained peaceful.
Folks attend weekend fundraiser for H.O.P.E.
It was an evening fit for royalty, as supporters of the Helping Others Pursue Enrichment (H.O.P.E.) program gathered Saturday at The Castle on the Lake outside Jacksonville for “A Renaissance Evening.”
Church of Wells members attend protest
About 30 members of the Church of Wells arrived at a protest Saturday. The event was planned after an incident at Wells Homecoming Day on April 5 where the church loudly "street preached" causing a disruption. Three of the church members were injured by two men at the parade. On Saturday, the event was peaceful, despite a few loud voices.
See the complete story and photos in the next edition of the Daily Progress on Tuesday, April 15.
5 receive scholarships from Chamber’s Agri-Business Committee
The Agri-Business Committee of the Jacksonville Chamber recently awarded five $1,000 scholarships at the Annual Cherokee County Junior Livestock Show on March 29.
Deadline to file taxes nears
As an April 15 deadline for individuals to file their 2013 federal tax return approaches, pressure is mounting for tax preparers.
Protest, march planned in Wells
The town of Wells is planning a march to the R&R Mercantile on U.S. Hwy. 69 from the former Dairy Queen to protest the Church of Wells.
The event is planned for 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Court date set for JP hearing
A court date has been reset to April 28 for a hearing of a petition by a local primary candidate in an upcoming Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace race.
Luncheon to include update on Lake Columbia
Updates on the proposed Lake Columbia will be the topic at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Kelly Holcomb, general manager for Angelina Neches River Authority, will provide updated information on the proposed Lake Columbia between Jackson-ville and New Summerfield.
- More Local News Headlines
- JPD dispatcher killed in wreck