12/08/04 — Bell to lead Eastpointe

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Bell to lead Eastpointe

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on December 8, 2004 1:59 PM

KINSTON -- The East-pointe Board of Directors chose John M. Bell Tuesday night as its vice chairman for the next year.

Bell is the first Wayne County representative to have a leadership position at Eastpointe, which provides mental health and other services in a four-county area.

Rebecca Judge of Duplin County was elected chairman. She replaces former Lenoir County Commissioner Oscar Herring, who had led the board since its formation in July 2003.

Eastpointe has gone through some growing pains, including meetings where directors heatedly argued. But Bell, a Wayne County commissioner, feels confident about the current direction.

"Things have changed a lot and settled down," he said after the meeting.

Eastpointe Director Jack St. Clair and his staff have done a good job to respond to the four counties' concerns, he added. St. Clair is meeting regularly with the county managers to update them on his agency's progress toward the state's mental health reform goals.

"They're really paying a lot more attention to us," Bell said.

Bell had also been nominated as vice chairman last year but declined the nomination, saying that he didn't have the time to devote to the post.

Director Floyd McCullouch, of Goldsbor, thanked Herring for his leadership. "We've been extremely lucky to have him," McCullouch said. "I'm a die-hard Democrat, but this Republican has worked like heck when he didn't have to."

The board had a light agenda because the meeting, held at Abbott's Buffet, also served as its Christmas party. Some directors brought their spouses.

The directors will get back to work next month with a retreat, scheduled Jan. 7-9 in New Bern.

Eastpointe was formed in July 2003 from a merger of the Wayne County Mental Health Center and the Duplin-Sampson-Lenoir center. It provides mental health, developmental disability and substance abuse services in the four counties.

From July 2003-June 2004, Eastpointe served 14,483 people in the four-county area. Around 5,700 of the clients were from Wayne County. About half the clients were children.