AUGUSTA (AP) – The superintendent of the Augusta Mental Health Institute is resigning, effective Feb. 13.

Lisa Kavanaugh, who has led the state psychiatric hospital for three years, was finishing her last day at AMHI on Friday, officials said.

“She certainly leaves behind a better hospital than she entered,” said Sabra Burdick, the acting commissioner of the Maine Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services. “It’s her decision.”

Burdick said the departing superintendent had “done some great things at the hospital as far as we’re concerned.”

Kavanaugh expressed satisfaction with her tenure and said she would be “proud to be a part of AMHI’s history.”

Operations at AMHI, which is 163 years old, have been under court supervision since 1990. In September, Superior Court Chief Justice Nancy Mills ordered that a receiver be appointed to operate the hospital until conditions improved to the court’s satisfaction.

The current court master, former state supreme court Chief Justice Dan Wathen, brought on board a veteran health professional to serve as receiver last fall.

“Essentially the receiver, Elizabeth Jones, is in charge of the hospital,” Wathen said Friday. “She’s been working collaboratively with the people who are in place there.”

Jones, reached through her Washington, D.C., office, said her immediate task would be to line up an interim replacement for Kavanaugh “so that we don’t lose momentum.”

Jones said Kavanaugh’s departure had been subject to “discussions among the parties.”

“I don’t know that it was any one thing. … “It just seemed like a good time for the change to happen.”

Kavanaugh said she believed working with AMHI staff she had been able to do “a lot to improve both patient care and safety” at the hospital.

Specific accomplishments, she said, included the negotiation of an affiliation with Dartmouth Medical School and the design and construction of an AMHI replacement to be known as Riverview Psychiatric Center.

“At this point in my life, I want to take some time and think about what I want to do next,” Kavanaugh said Friday.

Overall, she said, “I’ve done what I came here to do.”

Jamie Morrill, associate commissioner for the Maine Department of Behavioral and Developmental Services, is expected to serve as interim AMHI superintendent in the short term.

AP-ES-01-23-04 1329EST

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