Written by The Business Journal Staff
Susan Murdock, Vice President
Central Valley Region of Mental Health Systems
What we do:
Mental Health Systems features a comprehensive range of quality, cost-effective behavioral health services for mental illness and substance use disorders.
Bachelor’s Degree of social work from Fresno State with the distinction of Magna cum laude; Associate’s Degree, human services and registered addiction specialist
Family: Married, with 7 daughters, one son, and three grandsons.
How did you arrive at your position as vice president for the Central Valley Region of Mental Health Systems (MHS), Susan?
I began working for MHS in March of 2002 as a senior substance abuse counselor for the Substance Abuse Unit (SAU) in Juvenile Hall. In 2003, I was promoted to the position of SAU program manager. In 2009, I was named MHS Employee of the Year and I received a Resolution from the Fresno County Board of Supervisors for my outstanding contributions to the youth in the juvenile justice system. During the 10 years that I managed the Juvenile Justice Programs for MHS, our organization tripled the number of our contracts and developed a strong reputation of excellence in providing services to our clients and community. Based on these accomplishments and my proven dedication to the community of Fresno, MHS honored me with a promotion to the position as their vice president for the Central Valley Region.
What are some of the challenges your agency faces each year, Susan?
Our biggest challenge is changing the perception that our nation doesn’t have the financial resources to assist individuals who are impacted with substance abuse and other behavioral health challenges. Did you know that if we could change the life course of just one adolescent impacted with substance use and behavioral health issues, we could save our tax payers over $2 million? That amount reflects the cost associated with the social, medical and legal services as a result of a lifetime of addiction and criminal activity.
How has Mental Health Systems changed during your time with the agency, Susan?
Today, when we think about those in need of our support, we recognize that mental illness and substance abuse can be found in every corner and cross-section of society; they are universally non-discriminating in their devastation. So this broad but sharply focused perspective constantly motivates us. We’ve evolved as we keep up on best practices and new and evidence-based strategies. We’ve also expanded proven programs and implemented new service initiatives. Providing the best possible services in these ways has continued to uphold our mission, “To improve the lives of individuals, families and communities facing substance abuse and behavioral health challenges.”
I am proud to be in a leadership role with an agency that believes that individuals can and do change, and who have proven their belief by hiring staff that were formerly clients of MHS.
What is the best business advice that you have ever received, Susan?
When I first became a program manager, my supervisor told me to “change your seat on the bus!” What he meant by this was that I could no longer be a “passenger” going along for the ride in my program, but needed to become “the driver”: Drive my program responsibly and take good care of the bus and the passengers entrusted to my care; look for new roads to travel down, but always take the “high” road in the endeavor to take the program to the best possible destination you can achieve.
Do you have a favorite quotation, Susan?
“You can do no great things, just small things with great love.” Mother Theresa
What was your first job and what did you learn from it, Susan?
I was hired to work in the drive-through window at the first Burger King in Southern California. We had to sing, “Have it your way….” What I learned is that everyone places a different order, but as our customer they all deserve to receive what they requested.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Susan?
Enjoy a sunny day with a good book and the sound of children playing and laughing…