by Comprehensive Staff
In his 22 years at the helm, Comprehensive Healthcare CEO Rick Weaver has guided the agency through state budget cuts, a near-constant shortage of mental health care providers, and a burgeoning client population. Now the longtime director is stepping down, though he has no intention of letting his January retirement remove him from the health care arena entirely.
Weave, 62, has spent 35 years at Comprehensive, a private nonprofit organization that offers behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment services. And he was in mental healthcare for another seven before that, starting out at an agency in Bremerton right after he obtained his bachelor's degree. Originally, he planned to go to law school, until a summer job leading a supportive-employment program for people with mental illness changed his mind. "I just like the people," he said. "These are chronically mentally ill, really sick people, and if you don't like people and don't want to just talk to them and enjoy them for being a person, you might not want to be in this business."
During Weaver's tenure, Comprehensive's evolution has included building community partnerships with care providers and corrections and law enforcement agencies, to care for the most vulnerable populations and keep people in their homes. A big part of that was shifting care to be recovery-oriented, Weaver said, rather than creating chronic patients who need wraparound services for the rest of their lives. Now, Comprehensive and partner agencies are focusing on early intervention so that people with mental health issues can receive the proper medication and treatment before their disease becomes chronically unmanageable. Staff at Comprehensive say they'll miss Weaver's open-door policy and genuine heart for his employees. "The agency has always looked at ways to support our employees so that they stay working here, so they feel appreciated," said Gabriela Mondragon, who elads one of the teams providing outpatient therapy services. "No matter what rank you are in the agency, [Weaver]'s always more than willing to stop and chat with you....He's always open to your ideas = that's something we really, really appreciate about him and are going to miss."
The feeling is mutual. Comprehensive now has 800 employees across its system, which operates in Yakima, Kittitas, Benton, Franklin, Klickitat, and Walla Walla counties. "That's what keeps me coming to work: being able to work with really passionate, hardworking people, who often aren't paid very well and they still work really hard," Weaver said. "We've built lots of buildings, built lots of programs. I'd stack us up against any place in the state," he said. "But working with the staff and working with the clients - that's the stuff I like." Weaver's last day as CEO is January 10, but he'll stay on until January 31 to help with the transition to the new CEO, Dr. Jodi Daly from Western Montana Health Center in Missoula.
This article has been condensed. Read the full version here.