Ga. mental health ombudsman appointed

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ATLANTA — Gov. Nathan Deal's appointee to the job of state mental health ombudsman has no previous experience in the mental health field and once served as scheduler for former Gov. Sonny Perdue, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Deal named Corinna Magelund to the mental health position earlier this month at a salary of $107,000 a year.

The newspaper reported Thursday that Magelund, who worked most recently at the state Department of Community Affairs, is taking over a job that has had gone unfilled since the departure of Jewel Norman last August. Mental health advocates had called for the governor to fill the vacancy.

The job involves helping patients and their families navigate the state bureaucracy to get the services they need.

Legislation that created the ombudsman's position says the governor is to appoint a committee of advocates, psychiatrists and law enforcement to choose three finalists for the job.

Deal's office referred questions on the appointment to Bart Gobeil, the state's chief operating officer.

Gobeil would not say if the state advertised for the position, but said the governor was sensitive to the advocacy community's desire for action.

"We wanted to do it as quickly and effectively as possible," he said.

She was chosen, Gobeil said, for her "unique skill set and understanding of state government that others do not and cannot get that without working in the trenches and bowels of state government like she has."

Magelund, who holds a bachelor's degree in communications from Valdosta State University, told the newspaper that while she doesn't have direct mental health experience, her role in Perdue's administration forced her to serve "every constituency there is."

"I've just seen, with my time with the Perdue Administration, the progression the mental health program in Georgia has gone through."

Gobeil said Magelund also will handle the state's response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires that the disabled be served in the community, instead of institutions, unless doing so fundamentally alters state services.

Mental health advocates say they will take a wait-and-see approach to Magelund's appointment, but warned they will be watching closely.

"The jury is out," said Nora Haynes, a director of the Georgia chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

Haynes said she's impressed with Deal's "passion" for the subject.

"And as far as I'm concerned, until I know differently, I am going to trust his judgment," Haynes said.

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