New mental hospital gets a director

Staff WriterDecember 31, 2008 

The state Department of Health and Human Services is calling a former manager out of retirement to run the new state mental hospital in Butner.

J. Michael Hennike, who retired in 2007 as head of all state institutions for DHHS, will become Central Regional Hospital's director Thursday.

He had been an assistant to the hospital's interim director, Dr. Michael Lancaster, for the last six months.

Hennike is not being hired directly by the state. Instead, he is being hired through a contract with UNC-Chapel Hill. The arrangement allows the state to pay Hennike more money than the $115,000 to $120,000 hospital directors earn.

"It allows us to bring in someone with a lot of expertise," Lancaster said.

The contract terms were not available Tuesday, and Hennike could not be reached for comment.

The arrangement also allows the hospital to benefit from a connection to the university, Lancaster said.

Hennike was director of the Murdock Center in Butner, a facility for the developmentally disabled, for more than 30 years before he moved to the central office job in Raleigh.

Lancaster had been co-director of the state mental health division while he was running the hospital. He will go back to his former job as chief of clinical policy for the division.

Lancaster said that when he was appointed to the co-directorship this year, he told DHHS Secretary Dempsey Benton that he wanted to go back to being clinical policy chief before Benton's tenure ended.

"That's a position I think I'm better suited for," Lancaster said.

lynn.bonner@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4821

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