Frank W. Berry III was named Friday as the next commissioner of the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.
Berry, currently CEO of View Point Health in Lawrenceville, replaces Dr. Frank Shelp, the agency’s first commissioner, who announced his resignation last week.
Berry will assume his new duties Aug. 11. He will take over the reins of an agency that’s currently under pressure to meet requirements of the state’s 2010 agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to improve Georgia’s mental health and developmental disabilities system.
DBHDD’s developmental disabilities leadership recently experienced a shakeup, and before his departure, Shelp had been the focus of questions concerning his handling of agency bonuses and acceptance of lobbyists’ gifts.
Still, Shelp received considerable praise for leading the agency through its 2009 startup and for its work in creating more community services for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities.
The DBHDD board met Friday to approve Berry’s appointment. View Point Health is a community service organization serving Gwinnett, Rockdale and Newton counties.
Berry credited Shelp with a ‘‘phenomenal accomplishment’’ in the way he got the new department started.
Berry said he would target improving developmental disabilities services as ‘‘our No. 1 priority.’’
“Being out in the provider world, there have been significant challenges of serving people with developmental disabilities,’’ Berry told GHN after the board meeting.
“We’ve got to put people’s needs first,’’ Berry said.
He noted that the disabilities division in the agency is now without a director. He said he would review the housing limitations on group homes promulgated by the agency under Shelp.
Berry called the Justice Department agreement ‘‘a huge challenge,’’ and said DBHDD will seek a ‘‘team approach’’ to solving problems.
“The state can only be as good as the providers are,’’ he added.
Gov. Nathan Deal, who made the Berry appointment, said in a statement Friday that “Georgia is improving the way it provides help to people with behavioral health issues and developmental disabilities, serving more people closer to home.
“I’m pleased to announce that Frank Berry will bring his experience in building community services to lead that transformation.”
Consumer advocates Friday praised the selection of Berry.
“I think he has a real grasp of the way the system works,’’ said Ellyn Jeager, of Mental Health America of Georgia. “I think he will build on what Dr. Shelp started.’’
Agency board Chairman Don Cole said in a statement, “I’m looking forward to working with Frank Berry. His familiarity with the system and fresh perspective will be a real asset.”