Critics Blast Mayor’s ‘Unqualified’ Pick To Run DC Mental Health Services

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Critics are blasting Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser’s choice to head D.C.’s public psychiatric facility over an apparent lack of experience and questionable results in previous medical positions.

Bowser tapped James Edward Kyle to become chief executive of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast Washington March 2. New details emerging about his past credentials are leaving many in the District questioning how the mayor arrived at her decision. Kyle formerly served as the chief executive of a hospital on an American Indian reservation which had to halt its emergency services after federal officials found a risk to patients, reports The Washington Post.

The South Dakota Indian Health Service facility, which Kyle ran for just four months, risked losing federal funding for Medicare and Medicaid after officials uncovered a series of violations, including an incident involving a women giving birth alone on a floor.

Kyle’s contributions to the South Dakota Indian Health Service facility are unclear. William Bear Shield, a council representative for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said there were no noted improvements and chided his rather short tenure at the post.

“Just up and left, and left us high and dry,” Bear Shield said. “I don’t know they got any worse. I could definitely tell you nothing got better while he was here.”

The University of the District of Columbia recently rejected Kyle for a position after finding he lacked the necessary experience and background. Bowser praised him in her initial announcement, referring to Kyle as a “board certified health care executive with over thirty years of experience in the medical field.” A look at his resume shows just a decade of experience in healthcare, reports WTOP.

Kyle served nine years in the Army, after which he worked as a manager at a nursing agency. Kyle’s resume reveals a position as a nurse recruiter for Veterans Affairs in San Francisco, which he held for a year. He also did a stint as a professor and diversity officer for an online, for-profit university.

There is reportedly tension over Kyle’s appointment among employees at St. Elizabeths Hospital and officials at the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health (DMH). DMH director Tanya Royster said the majority of staff members were united behind the new leadership, alleging criticism of Kyle may stem from jealousy.

“I’ve been impressed with what he’s done in the first couple of weeks that he’s been there,” Royster told The Washington Post. “Unfortunately, people are bitter, angry and disappointed that they did not assume leadership.”

Kyle, who holds a doctorate in leadership from Charisma University, defended himself against attacks on his experience for the position, which pays $171,000 a year. Charisma University is a school in the British West Indies and is not accredited in the U.S.

“My previous experience, military service, and training as a health care executive have prepared me for this job,” Kyle said in an email to The Washington Post. “I’m excited about the opportunity to build on the work that has taken place. We are focused on delivering high quality care at Saint Elizabeths Hospital.”

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