Patrick Barrie, executive director of Washtenaw Community Health Organization, dies unexpectedly Monday
Executive Director of the Washtenaw Community Health Organization Patrick Barrie died unexpectedly at home Monday night, according to official sources.
Verna McDaniel, Washtenaw County administrator, confirmed Barrie’s death Tuesday afternoon.
Courtesy of Behavioral Healthcare
“His death is a tremendous loss for the county,” McDaniel said Tuesday. “He was a brilliant man and extremely kind.”
Barrie had served in an administrative role with the WCHO since 2008 and became the executive director in 2009, when he replaced the founding director Kathleen Reynolds. Formerly, he was the senior deputy director of the Michigan Department of Community Health’s Mental Health Substance Abuse Administration.
“The passing of Patrick Barrie ... is a loss not only to those who knew him personally, but to the many Michigan residents whose lives have been touched by his commitment to behavioral health.
"I personally have lost a close friend and trusted colleague,” according to an emailed statement from James Haveman, director of the Michigan Department of Community Health.
“Patrick was a brilliant mind, and never failed to think outside of the box and find solutions to complex issues that people had never dreamed of before. He always approached a project by focusing on what was best for the consumer,” according to Haveman’s statement. “Michigan residents have lost a true champion.”
The WCHO was created in 2000 to manage mental health, substance abuse and primary care funding for integrated health care initiatives. The organization works to create medical homes for people with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders.
Washtenaw County had created a deputy administrator position in 2008 in order to hire Barrie to help manage the WCHO during a time when the organization was pursuing additional sources of funding through Medicaid.
Barrie was considered a national expert in Medicaid financing for mental health and developmental disability services.
In an interview with AnnArbor.com, Haveman said he knew Barrie since the early 1990s and brought him in to the state health department in 1995.
Barrie enjoyed reading Medicaid policies and was skilled at interpreting them in ways that made sense, Haveman said.
“(Barrie) helped shape a lot of Medicaid policies in the state,” Haveman said. “He was kind of the Michelangelo of policy.”
Though Haveman and Barrie hadn't worked together since 2002, Haveman said the two remained close and he last spoke with Barrie Sunday night.
“He was having trouble breathing,” Haveman said, describing a number of chronic health conditions that had plagued Barrie for years: Lung infections, Type 2 diabetes and asthma.
Barrie, who is in his mid-60s, had been working from home for several weeks prior to his death, Haveman said.
“He wasn’t a sports guy; he was a student of the mind and could think the way that nobody else was thinking about solving a problem,” Haveman said of Barrie.
Barrie spent his free time reading and writing policy for use at the state level, even as he became the executive director of the WCHO.
“There’s nobody who could do what he’s doing,” Haveman said.
Barrie had a master’s degree in psychology from Duquesne University and a master’s degree in history from Michigan State University, according to a 2010 article by Behavioral Healthcare.
He's survived by his wife, Mary, and two grown children, Phil and Cullen.
Information on funeral arrangements was not immediately available.