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Med School Instructor to Head State Mental Health Department

Dr. Mark J. Mills. instructor in psychiatry at the Medical School and chief executive officer at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, a division of the Med School, took office Thursday as acting Mental Health Commissioner of Massachusetts.

Governor Edward King appointed Mills to the post because of his "impressive mix of academic credentials and public experience," Roy Lyons. King's assistant press secretary, said yesterday.

A graduate of both Harvard Law School and Stanford University School of Medicine. Mills served as co-director of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center's program on psychiatry and the law. He has written many academic papers on legal aspects of mental health, particularly the patient's right to refuse treatment.

Mills takes charge of the state's largest department, one likely to suffer from Proposition 2 1/2's budget reductions.

"The work will be more difficult in these times of cutbacks," Mills said yesterday, adding. "I think it will be a challenge."

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Mental health is "an area that requires strong management." John W. Gillespie, an official in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Human Services, said yesterday.

The Department of Mental Health is currently under several consent decrees with state courts by which it must make "enormous improvements in facilities," Gillespie said.

The state is also pioneering in efforts to "deinstitutionalize" large numbers of mental patients, and return them "to their own communities, among family and friends," Gillespie added.

"I'm feeling very pleased, very challenged, and very overwhelmed," Mills said, adding. "I think it's a sufficiently demanding job."

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