News & Press
The Right Door names a new CEO; Promotes CFO
IONIA COUNTY — With two decades of experience at The Right Door for Hope, Recovery and Wellness under her belt, Kerry Possehn was the board’s choice for the agency’s next chief executive officer.
Possehn takes over March 5, as Robert Lathers retires after almost 17 years as CEO of the organization formerly known as Ionia County Community Mental Health.
“I’m excited to do it,” Possehn said Monday, Feb. 19. “I’ve been helping Bob a lot, so the transition will be easy. But there’s also big shoes to fall into and fill, so that part is a little daunting.”
Possehn started working with the agency in the finance department as accounting manager when The Right Door had just one location in Orleans. Its offices are now located in Ionia, Portland and Belding. She became the chief financial officer and human resources director four years ago.
Born and raised in Lake Odessa, Possehn’s four young children now attend Lakewood Schools — her own alma mater. A graduate of Lakewood High School, she holds a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University and a Master of Business Administration degree with a focus in human resources and accounting from Davenport University.
In addition to her education, it’s Possehn’s experience at The Right Door and in the community that makes her so well qualified for her new role as CEO, said Lathers.
“When you can leave an organization like this and you have a successor, that’s what success is about. Kerry has incredible value. She’ll be the only director of this agency that actually grew up here and is a lifelong resident here,” Lathers said. “Kerry’s values and commitment to the people we serve, and to the community as a whole, are just really strong. The board saw that — she was the unanimous selection of the board (for CEO).”
The importance of Possehn’s knowledge and understanding of The Right Door’s finances gained over her 20 years with the agency can’t be overstated, Lathers said.
“She understands the relationship between finances and the people we serve, and that the finances are intended for the people we serve,” he said. ”(The board) could not have found a better person to take the job.”
Calling Possehn’s ability to link money to services “extraordinary,” Lathers said she meets all the requirements of Medicaid funding and yet manages to stretch everywhere she can.
“Ninety-five percent of our money is Medicaid. It’s highly categorized, it’s highly audited, and it’s highly restricted. And still we find ways to be creative with veterans, with the jail, with probate court, with the schools — not with Medicaid money,” said Lathers. “She’s able to say ‘Here’s the need, how do we fund it?’ It’s not an easy solution, but she’s figured it out. We focus our money on where it should be.”
“That’s a big focus of mine: to make sure as much money as we can gets to the services,” Possehn added.
But she’s no “bean counter.” Possehn’s longevity with the agency has also given her opportunities for decision-making alongside the clinicians, and she understands that side as well. She’s worked closely with all of the clinical staff, and she said she has “picked up a lot of things over the last 20 years.”
“When we sit in on supervisory and leadership meetings, and have those discussions, I’m hearing all that and am part of that discussion, the same as any clinical staff are,” said Possehn. “My clinical staff are strong. They’re some of the best there are. We have a lot of collaboration, and we make the best decision we can.”
Possehn pointed to the two full-time psychiatrists on staff, a “really strong” nurse manager and the director of outpatient and special services who has been with The Right Door for 25 years.
“We have a lot of depth on the clinical side. We also have a lot of new young staff that bring in a new element of freshness,” she said. “It’ll be really fun to see where we can go and what we can do for our consumers with all that education and youth and energy. It’s a good balance.”
Possehn said she and the board will meet in the spring to do strategic planning, but that she doesn’t see any “earth shattering” changes on the horizon. The agency’s big projects — the autism center in Belding, an expansion in Portland to increase office space for programs and services — have been completed. Possehn plans to look to provide more services for veterans and for those dealing with substance use disorders.
“The board and Bob have done a really great job partnering with different people in the community, making sure those programs are there to try and reach the most people we can reach. We’re just continuing with that same focus in mind,” she said.
Possehn played an integral part in The Right Door’s name change in 2015, according to Lathers. She said she appreciates the new name very much, because it reflects the work the agency staff and board members have done to open themselves up to the community.
“It’s really important to have our services available to anyone in need,” Possehn said. “I think it can be really hard for people sometimes to get the services they need, and I think we do a really good job breaking down that ‘hardness’ and making it easier for people to access the services we have to help them.
“I’m just really excited,” she added. “I want to thank Bob for all the years he’s served our community and our agency. I hold him in really high regard. He’s done a great job for us.”
“That’s pretty mutual,” Lathers responded. “It was just important to have somebody who knew what they were doing in the job, and Kerry knows it.”