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Hennike ready to lead Central Regional

Retired DHHS officials Mike Hennike took over as director of the troubled $130 million facility in Butner.

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BUTNER, N.C. — Recruiting good staff, better training and more accountability are needed to improve the quality of patient care at the state's psychiatric hospital, its new chief said Monday.

"I see one way to create a real marked improvement is to, really, up the amount of supervision and oversight that occurs on the patient units," Central Regional Hospital's director, Mike Hennike, said.

Last week, Hennike took over as director of the $130 million facility that was designed to replace Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh and John Umstead Hospital in Butner.

Open less than six months, the hospital has been at risk twice of losing federal funding, been involved in a lawsuit and come under fire for the way employees have treated patients.

Hennike has been part of the state's mental health system since the 1970s and has worked as a part-time consultant at Central Regional since it opened.

"It's a real challenge, and I want to stay engaged in it," he said. "I think this hospital has just incredible potential to be a very cutting-edge facility."

The opening was delayed multiple times because of safety concerns and employee staffing at the facility. Umstead patients moved in July, and before Dix patients were to move in October, a judge ruled in favor of disability rights group for a temporary restraining order to stop the move.

Disability Rights North Carolina cited concerns about safety issues at the facility and claimed the state failed to meet conditions for the move as outlined under state law.

The hospital was also at risk on two occasions of losing its certification to be reimbursed for treating patients on federal insurance programs for improperly billing the federal government and for failing to provide care in a safe environment.

A survey team will be back at Central Regional later this month to ensure the hospital is making improvements and meeting federal standards.

"We need to make sure we're very client- and patient-focused," Hennike said. "I mean, that's what this organization is all about. Everything else is supporting that. And my goal is to make this a very patient-friendly facility."

Hennike, who will earn $174,000 annually, is the third person named to be named director at the hospital.

Dr. Patsy Christian resigned in June after coming under fire for commissioning a portrait of herself.

And Dr. Michael Lancaster, co-director of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services, served as interim director until last week.


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