Monitor on Psychology - June 2012 - (Page 50)
Atkins Hall is one of many buildings on St. Elizabeths’ west campus that are no longer in use and will become part of a new Department of Homeland Security headquarters.
Slide show: 150 years of history at Saint Elizabeths.
funding. The 293-bed hospital is making progress on a 2007 settlement agreement with the U.S. Justice Department over civil rights violations for inadequate patient care, and Canavan hopes to have all of the settlement terms met next year. He also is pursuing accreditation for the hospital and compliance with a federal accounting agreement over allegations of Medicare billing fraud dating to the 1990s. “Organizational change really requires getting people to work in a particular direction for a common good,” he says. “It’s about helping people adapt and changing human behavior.” From psychologist to sewar ‘rat expert’ After receiving his PhD from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology in 1995, Canavan worked at St. Elizabeths as an intern and clinical administrator in the hospital’s forensic division, where patients are referred from the criminal justice system. St. Elizabeths — which takes its name and missing apostrophe from the 17th-century land grant where it is located — was transferred from the federal government to the D.C. Department of Mental Health in 1987.
“I always thought the connection between psychology and the law was very interesting,” he says. “There is a clear benefit to society through harm reduction, risk management and care for very sick people.” Canavan became restless after five years at St. Elizabeths, and he was intrigued by a managerial training course offered by the D.C. government and George Washington University. After completing the program, he was hired in 1999 by then-D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams to serve as a special assistant working with health and human services agencies to implement some of the mayor’s campaign pledges, including a war against rats. The city had been overrun with vermin, so Canavan organized a “rat summit” that was attended by more than 700 people and dozens of reporters. After an interview at a local news station, Canavan’s brother called to tell him about the caption under his televised image. It didn’t mention clinical psychologist or special assistant. It just said “Rat Expert.” “The rat summit was my claim to fame, which was really embarrassing,” Canavan says with a laugh. “Why do rats have
MONITOR ON PSYCHOLOGY • JUNE 2012
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