DSHS makes changes to Behavioral Health Administration

Release Date: 
Nov 14 2018
DSHS Office of Communications
Norah West
(360) 902-7833


Secretary realigns administration to move forward on Governor’s vision for mental health

OLYMPIA – Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Secretary Cheryl Strange today announced changes to the department’s Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) that better align the agency with Governor Jay Inslee’s vision for the future of mental health treatment in our state.

“We have a very swift course in order to make needed changes to how people with mental illness are treated in our state,” Strange explained. 

In order to ensure DSHS is following that course, Strange has moved Ken Taylor from his position as Assistant Secretary of BHA to a special assistant focused on litigation specific to behavioral health; namely, the Trueblood federal court case and the Ross settlement. Taylor will also oversee the Office of Forensic Mental Health Services

“This move allows Ken to put all the focus necessary into our work coming into compliance with court-ordered requirements for DSHS,” said Strange, referencing the Trueblood and Ross cases. “It also gives us the opportunity to tap into his community mental health expertise to support the Governor’s vision of creating centers of forensics excellence at our state hospitals by 2023.” 

Strange has asked Sean Murphy, currently the Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Western State Hospital, to serve as the BHA Assistant Secretary. Sean has over 20 years of experience in providing and improving facility-based services to persons in the state’s care. He has an extensive leadership background in state service and an indelible record of success in leading organizational change. He holds a master’s in public administration from the University of Washington as well as a bachelor’s degree in business.

“Sean will lead our department’s efforts to transform civil and forensic services as reflected in the Governor’s vision for behavioral health,” said Strange. “I know he will excel at this – his knack for relationship building and strategic thinking will help us as we move towards a new and improved way of treating mental illness in our state.”
Murphy will also work to get BHA ready to manage the Special Commitment Center, which will move under its umbrella July 1, 2019 as DSHS’ Juvenile Rehabilitation programs transfer to the Department of Children, Youth, and Families.
Murphy and Taylor begin their new appointments on Nov. 16.

“I remain steadfastly dedicated to working with the mental health community, advocates, the Legislature, the Health Care Authority, local governments and others to reach our shared goal of caring for people diagnosed with mental illness,” Strange added. “We turned our long-term care system around a couple decades ago and I believe we can do the same for mental health.”

The Behavioral Health Administration oversees the state’s three psychiatric facilities—Eastern and Western state hospitals and the Child Study and Treatment Center—along with the Office of Forensic Mental Health Services. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), one in four adults and one in 10 children experience a mental health condition each year. 
*Updated 11/20/2018 to reflect personnel change.
**Updated 11/30/2018 to reflect personnel change.



DSHS does not discriminate and provides equal access to its programs and services for all persons without regard to race, color, gender, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sexual orientation, age, veteran’s status or the presence of any physical, sensory or mental disability.