1992/06/17 – Dinkins Names Commissioner of Mental Health

The New York Times

June 17, 1992

Dinkins Names Commissioner of Mental Health By JAMES C. MCKINLEY JR.

Dr. Luis Rojas Marcos, a New York psychiatrist and leading researcher into mental illness among the homeless, was appointed the city’s Commissioner of Mental Health yesterday, two years after he was passed over for the job.

With the appointment of Dr. Marcos, who is currently head of mental health services for the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, Mayor David N. Dinkins is addressing two problems, one administrative, the other political, City Hall aides said.

Dr. Marcos’s appointment brings in a well-respected mental health expert to fill a position left vacant by Dr. Billy E. Jones, whom the Mayor appointed to head the Health and Hospitals Corporation after the resignation of Dr. J. Emilio Carrillo.

But the choice also gives the Mayor another Hispanic health official, possibly mollifying Hispanic political leaders who were angered by the administration’s handling of Dr. Carrillo’s departure in the fall.

Dr. Marcos was the runner-up for the mental health position when Dr. Jones was appointed in March 1990, and the Mayor’s decision then disappointed many Hispanic leaders. Managing Political Symmetry

Soon afterward, the Mayor appointed Dr. Carrillo to the hospitals corporation post. But Mr. Dinkins’s relations with Hispanic leaders deteriorated last year when Dr. Carrillo was forced to resign amid investigations into the finances and the quality of care at municipal hospitals, as well as disclosures that he had accepted personal loans from officials of private hospitals with city contracts.

«There is something of a political symmetry to this,» said Borough President Fernando Ferrer of the Bronx. «Look, Luis Marcos is a first-rate psychiatrist. He’s a first-rate governmental health-care administrator. That he happens to be Hispanic is pretty good news. But he shouldn’t be marginalized as well because they had to pick an Hispanic.»

At a news conference yesterday, Dr. Marcos, who is now a senior vice president for mental health at the hospitals corporation, said that in his new job he would like to develop programs to reduce juvenile violence, get homeless mentally ill people into clinics and give minorities who speak little English better access to mental-health care. He said he viewed his role as a coordinator of programs in other city agencies.

In particular, Dr. Marcos said he would like to look at ways to spot and help potentially violent youths in schools. «You have a captive audience,» he said of students. «There must be a way of continuing to implant the value of life.»

Dr. Marcos has been in charge of mental health services in the city’s municipal hospitals since 1981 and is a tenured professor at New York University School of Medicine. He has written extensively about the treatment of homeless people with mental problems and was the main architect of Project HELP, a Koch administration program that sends social workers out to identify and treat homeless mentally ill. In the 1970’s, he also did seminal studies on the influence of language barriers and cultural differences on psychiatric examinations.

A 43-year-old native of Seville, Spain, Dr. Marcos graduated from Seville University Medical School in 1967 and moved to New York to practice shortly afterward. He will earn $110,000 as Mental Health Commissioner.

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