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Rosecrance names new VP/COO for mental health services

June 1, 2011
by News release
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Rockford — Rosecrance President/CEO Philip Eaton has named longtime Janet Wattles Center administrator Mary Ann Abate to the position of Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Mental Health Services for Rosecrance Health Network.

In this role, Abate will head up the mental health side of Rosecrance’s behavioral health services. Late last year, Rosecrance and Janet Wattles Center entered into a formal affiliation that created the most comprehensive network of behavioral health care in the state of Illinois.

“She understands fully that behavioral healthcare is primary healthcare—that it is equally essential to wellness,” Eaton said. “That’s the direction this nation is going, and Mary Ann is going to help Rosecrance lead the way in the Midwest.”

Abate is uniquely qualified for the post, given her nearly 30-year tenure with Janet Wattles. In addition, she was second in command to long-time Janet Wattles Center President/CEO Frank Ware, who died in February. Most recently, her title with Rosecrance Health Network was Vice President/Administrator for Janet Wattles Center.

“The uncertainties with the economy, public funding, and healthcare reform all require our measured best as we plan to advance the mission of Janet Wattles and explore new opportunities and continue to serve those who struggle with serious mental illness in our community,” Eaton said. “Mary Ann is very qualified and motivated to lead this effort.”

In accepting the new position, Abate acknowledged that the affiliation will guide the direction for mental health services under the Rosecrance umbrella.

“The times are challenging but the affiliation has already offered Janet Wattles new opportunity and direction,” she said. “We want to integrate mental health and substance abuse services eventually, and this is possible now.”

The affiliation, now in its fifth month, has been “effortless,” Abate said. She said her understanding of the current system of care and local issues should ease the leadership transition for staff and consumers.

She affirmed Janet Wattles Center’s longstanding commitment to providing treatment for individuals with serious mental illness.

Abate will oversee mental health services at Janet Wattles Center, 526 W. State St., Rockford; Mildred Berry Center, 8616, Northern Ave., Rockford; Janet Wattles’ Belvidere office at 475 Southtowne Drive; and at Aspen Counseling and Consulting, 1021 N. Mulford Road, Rockford. All are Rosecrance affiliates.

“I am not filling Frank Ware's shoes because no one can do so,” Abate said of Ware, who led the Janet Wattles for 22 years. “His legacy of excellence will motivate me every day.

“Now it is time for me to establish another legacy that I will influence working within the Rosecrance Health Network.”

Abate holds a master’s degree in community mental health from Southern New Hampshire University and a bachelor’s degree from Edgewood College in Madison, Wis. She is a licensed social worker in the state of Illinois. She serves on numerous professional committees and review boards and is active in an array of community organizations.

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