Miriam Delphin-Rittmon
Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, Commissioner of mental health and addiction services Arielle Levin Becker / The CT Mirror
Miriam Delphin-Rittmon
Miriam Delphin-Rittmon with Gov. Malloy Arielle Levin Becker / The CT Mirror

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has named a clinical psychologist with experience working in state and federal mental health agencies to lead the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, 47, has been serving as the department’s acting commissioner since the departure earlier this month of Patricia Rehmer, who had led the agency since 2009 and left to lead Hartford HealthCare’s Behavioral Health Network. Delphin-Rittmon has also served as the agency’s deputy commissioner, senior policy advisor and director of the office of multicultural healthcare equality.

As commissioner, Delphin-Rittmon will lead an agency that serves more than 100,000 adults with mental illnesses and addiction, overseeing a system that treatment providers say could face significant financial challenges under Malloy’s proposed budget. The governor’s plan eliminates $25.5 million in state grants that providers have long relied on to help cover the cost of treating uninsured and underinsured clients.

In announcing the appointment during a press conference at the state Capitol Monday, Malloy said Delphin-Rittmon would continue Rehmer’s work advocating for people with behavioral health disorders and building a nationally recognized, recovery-oriented system. He also noted that much of Delphin-Rittmon’s professional work has focused on health care equity.

Delphin-Rittmon noted that research suggests that one in four people will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lifetime, and that in 2013, an estimated 24.6 million Americans over age 12 reported using illicit drugs.

“Everyone in this great state is impacted by behavioral health challenges, if not themselves, then through a friend or a loved one’s struggle,” she said.

But she said there’s reason to be hopeful.

“Prevention works, treatment is effective and people recover,” she said.

Would the governor’s proposed budget give the department enough money to adequately serve the department’s clients? Delphin-Rittmon was asked during the press conference, where she stood with the governor.

“We believe that we do have adequate funding to continue to provide quality services to individuals who are accessing care throughout our system,” she said.

As for treatment providers that have expressed concerns about funding cuts, Delphin-Rittmon said agency officials plan to talk with them about “how to best evolve the system, given the resources we have.”

Delphin-Rittmon, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology, spent two years as a senior advisor to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and was an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale. She also served as director of health equity and multicultural research and consultation in the Yale psychiatry department’s program for recovery and community health.

She will be paid $160,000 per year.

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Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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