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Dr. Rob Simpson Jr. will step down as CEO of the Brattleboro Retreat. Simpson has led the state’s largest psychiatric hospital since 2006.


Simpson to step down as Retreat's president and CEO

Tenure marked by innovation and rough patches

Commons Editor Jeff Potter contributed to this story.

BRATTLEBORO—Dr. Robert E. Simpson Jr. has decided not to renew his contract offer and will step down from his position as president and chief executive officer of the Brattleboro Retreat on Dec. 31.

Simpson, the president and CEO at the Retreat, the largest psychiatric facility in Vermont, since 2006, will accept an offer to become CEO of the World Purpose Forum in January.

He will join “a new venture with a mission to empower individuals to achieve their purpose through the assistance of a global network of business and thought leaders,” according to a description provided by Konstantin von Krusenstiern, the hospital’s vice president of strategy and development.

Simpson will also join the organizational development firm Linkage, Inc., as a principal consultant in their Executive Leadership & Board Practice to develop leadership teams and boards in more than 25 countries. He has been affiliated with the consulting firm since 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile.

According to Krusenstiern, the World Purpose Forum is affiliated with Linkage.

Simpson has also accepted an offer from the Retreat board to provide “philanthropic consultation and assistance in an emeritus role,” also beginning in January.

Governor Peter Shumlin responded to the news of Simpson’s impending departure with a statement, calling him an “innovative consensus builder” who “will be missed.”

A time of change

During Simpson’s tenure the Retreat has launched five successful “specialty” clinical services: The Uniformed Service Program, The LGBT Adult Inpatient Program, the Emerging Adult Inpatient Program, the Mind Body Pain Management Program, and HUB Opiate Addiction Program.

Simpson has also overseen the investment of approximately $21 million in facility upgrades and maintenance projects including a new 14-bed, state-of-the-art unit for severely ill patients from the Vermont State Hospital that were displaced following Tropical Storm Irene.

In 2013, the Retreat launched Vermont Collaborative Care, an innovative partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont that integrates the management of mental health and traditional medical care thus setting the stage for healthcare reform initiatives.

And in 2014 Dr. Simpson was chosen as a Behavioral Healthcare Champion by Behavioral Healthcare magazine, which cited his “unique brand of dedication, courage, inspiration, and excellence as a behavioral healthcare leader.”

Simpson’s tenure has also had some rough patches.

At least four times since 2012, the Retreat has faced scrutiny by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for deficiencies in nursing and pharmaceutical services.

There have also been disputes with the Retreat mental health workers over staffing levels that employees felt endangered their safety.

A round of staffing cuts in the fall of 2012 eliminated 31 positions. This happened shortly after union members at the Retreat began picketing over demands for higher pay and benefits.

Prior to joining the Retreat, Simpson was CEO of Arbour Hospital, a private psychiatric facility in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. He had also held management positions at Baystate Health System and the Sisters of Providence Health System in the Springfield, Mass., area.

He is a graduate of Amherst College, and got his master’s in social work at Simmons College. He also earned a master’s in public health from Harvard University and received his doctorate in social work from the University of Utah.

According to a news release, Simpson told the Board of Trustees that “it has been a privilege to lead the transformation of the Brattleboro Retreat over the past eight years.”

“I have focused on being a good steward in my efforts to put the Retreat in a position of real strength, and I have been inspired by the quality of the Medical Staff, the Executive team, the board, and the nearly 900 employees whose courage and commitment mirror the courage of our patients,” Simpson said.

Moving forward

Between now and the end of the year, the board said, it will work with Simpson to assure a smooth and successful leadership transition.

A national search for Simpson’s replacement will be launched with the help of the healthcare recruitment firm Phillips, DiPisa & Associates.

Board Chair Elizabeth Catlin noted the Retreat’s recent re-accreditation by the Joint Commission as a strong indicator of the hospital’s ongoing success under the Systems Improvement Agreement established with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at the end of 2014.

“The Brattleboro Retreat has become a financially stable and dynamic organization under Dr. Simpson’s management,” she said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #303 (Wednesday, April 29, 2015). This story appeared on page A1.

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