Fri. Feb 3rd, 2023

CADILLAC — After seven years as the chief executive officer of Northern Lakes Community Mental Health, Karl Kovacs recently announced he is retiring from the position.

Kovacs announced his retirement last week and Monday was his last day, according to Joanie Blamer, the Chief Population Officer for Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority.

Kovacs worked for the Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority for 10 years and the last seven as its CEO. During his tenure, Kovacs led the organization through multiple funding hurdles and other issues all the while maintaining a focus on improving clinical and operational consistency, effectiveness, efficiency and use of data to improve and increase services.

Kovacs worked to make Northern Lakes the premier provider of integrated behavioral health and physical health services in the region through the authority’s Integrated Health Clinic, Health Home pilot and collaboration with primary care providers. Northern Lakes’ crisis services structure was reconfigured, the mobile Family Assessment and Safety Team for children was created and the child and family services team was redesigned to directly provide service across the six counties.

“I am very appreciative of the opportunity to serve at NLCMHA with such a dedicated team of staff and board of directors. I am very thankful for the collaboration with the other four CMHs in our region in concert with the Northern Michigan Regional Entity,” Kovacs said.

“Our collaboration with other agencies and contracted providers has been most gratifying as we strive to find solutions to service gaps and improve the quality of care. I have come to understand the struggles and resiliency of the people we serve and have learned a great deal.”

Kovacs also said he hoped that any future changes to the public behavioral health system will consider Northern Lakes’ clients first and continue the local accountability to the six counties within the authority. Although he retired from Northern Lakes, Kovacs said he looks forward to being active in the areas of behavioral and physical health care.

During the past year, Kovacs and the Northern Lakes executive team continued to work seamlessly during a difficult time that included a global pandemic. This included no involuntary layoffs and no increase in client hospitalizations. Northern Lakes also earned a Healthy Michigan Worksite Award by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for investing in wellness programs designed to improve the health of its workforce under Kovacs’ direction.

Authority board chairman Randy Kamps said Kovacs built and led a dynamic leadership team, and that team remains.

“He worked tirelessly to carry forward the board’s vision for the future by establishing and enriching systems that will serve the community well going forward,” Kamps said. “He leaves a legacy of accomplishment, collaboration and lasting commitment to persons we serve.”

Kovacs may have served for a decade at Northern Lakes, but his career spanned 46 years. That career included executive positions with the Michigan Bureau of Community Mental Health Services, Amerihealth Mercy, Priority Health, and Community Choice Michigan. He graduated with a B.A. cum laude from Harvard University and holds an M.S. in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University and an M.B.A. in Management and Labor Relations from Cleveland State University.

With Monday being Kovacs’ last day, Blamer said the authority board is planning on developing a CEO search committee at its upcoming Aug. 19 meeting. Until a permanent replacement is found, Blamer said she will be serving as Northern Lakes interim CEO.

By senior