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Josephson leaving Riverbend for Los Angeles after eight years

Dr. Louis Josephson is now the CEO and President of Riverbend Community Mental Health, Inc.

(Concord Monitor photo/Danny Gawlowski)

Dr. Louis Josephson is now the CEO and President of Riverbend Community Mental Health, Inc. (Concord Monitor photo/Danny Gawlowski)

After eight years adapting to country life and the chance to work hands-on in a small organization, Louis Josephson is leaving Concord’s Riverbend Community Mental Health to return to a big city.

Josephson, who has been president and CEO at Riverbend since 2005, will in July take on the same position at the private nonprofit Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services in Los Angeles.

With his son Oliver now in college on the West Coast, the family sought an opportunity to return to urban living closer to his school.

“I love my job,” Josephson said. “If I could pick my job up and move it somewhere else, I would. We’ve done a lot of creative good things here, but in going to L.A., I’ll have an opportunity to run a bigger agency there. It’s mostly child, family and adolescent work. I love working with adults, too, but working with children and families is one of my favorite things to do.”

Riverbend had about $21.5 million in revenue last year; it serves approximately 9,000 children, families and adults from Concord and the Merrimack Valley.

Vista Del Mar took in $38.5 million in revenue last year, according to tax documents. The organization runs a school for children with emotional disturbances on an 18-acre campus and several clinics in and around Los Angeles.

Josephson and his family moved to New Hampshire from New York City, where he had been assistant commissioner of the Office of Child and Adolescent Services in the city’s health department.

One of the changes he enjoyed the most was meeting and interacting with Riverbend clients more often than he ever had time for in the city.

In his time at Riverbend, Josephson was also an outspoken critic of state funding cuts for the mental health system, finding himself at the State House many more days than he expected.

“I guess a lot of that does fall on the person in Concord, being just down the block,” he said.

He found the political side of the work “very energizing,” advocating for increased public awareness and state funding for mental health care.

“People have asked if I’m burnt out by that side of things, and no, absolutely not. It’s hard to leave right now because I think we’re on the verge of some real improvements and I wish I could stay to see it through. I did more of the politics and awareness building than I thought I would when I got here, but the time demanded it.”

Don Shumway, former state commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services and a member of the Riverbend board of directors, called Josephson “the statewide voice of advocacy on behalf of people with mental illness.”

Sharing the stories of people with mental illness and the conditions they face when in crisis drew public attention to the cause in a way Josephson was specially suited to do, he said.

“His empathy and articulate quality is a rare combination and represents a tremendous gift that he has brought us. . . . That leadership role has been essential to slowing the erosion of mental health care in the state.”

Josephson’s successor should look to the visible and active role Josephson took in the greater Concord community, as it benefited the organization and mental health across the state, Shumway said.

“He toured hundreds of people through the Concord Hospital emergency rooms to show them and help them understand that worst moment in people’s lives, when their illnesses have brought them to a point of asking for help. His ability to give people insight and open that window into how a mental health system works and how it should work has been an extraordinary lesson for us all,” he said. “We need to continue that.”

Riverbend board of directors members Meg Miller and Ron Magoon will lead the committee searching for the organization’s next leader. Representatives from Concord Hospital will also assist in the search, since Josephson also serves as vice president for behavioral health at the hospital.

Josephson said he is due in California on July 1, and though he’s ready and willing to help his successor, he’s confident he won’t be needed.

“I’m always available for that, but . . . I was very lucky when I got here to have a great senior team, and I don’t think they’re going anywhere, so whoever it is, they’ll be in good hands,” he said.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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