RP Resident Becomes Mental Health President
The Board of Directors of the Staten Island Mental Health Society, Inc. (SIMHS) has announced the appointment of Fern Aaron Zagor, LCSW, ACSW, as President and Chief Executive Officer, effective August 1. Zagor has held the position of Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the West Brighton-based children’s mental health services agency since 2005, with responsibility for the daily operations of its 20 mental health and related programs that serve more than 5,300 children with special needs and their families at 22 borough-wide locations.
Zagor succeeds Dr. Kenneth Popler of Westerleigh, who retired July 31, after serving as the Society’s chief executive for 31 years. During Dr. Popler’s tenure, the number of children served by the SIMHS increased from 3,100 to 5,300, its workforce grew from 155 to 360, with an additional 500 volunteers, and its total annual budget rose from $2 million to $21 million. The SIMHS is considered a leader and pioneer in the behavioral health field, throughout the state and nation.
A resident of Rockaway Park, Queens, Zagor has more than 38 years of professional health, mental health, and human services experience in administration, program and staff development, supervision, and grants development and implementation, according to SIMHS Board of Directors Chair John G. Tapinis.
“Fern Zagor has a distinguished career of almost four decades in the behavioral health field and has earned the respect of her colleagues for her personal and professional commitment to making lives better for children with special needs,” Tapinis said. “She applies her wealth of experience and expertise, tempered with sensitivity and understanding, to address the complicated issues that bring so many children and families to our doors.
“During her seven years as the Society’s second in command, Ms. Zagor has carried out an array of achievements that have helped us maintain our leadership role throughout the state as a provider of high quality children’s services,” he noted.
Among these accomplishments, Tapinis cited her “oversight and management” of the Society’s $8.5 million project to construct the Island’s first LEED-certified “green” office building, the recently opened SIMHS Children’s Mental Health Center in St. George.
She was also responsible for overseeing clinical, administrative and facilities functions including all aspects of program operations, and day-to-day functioning of the Society’s programs and staff. In addition, she was the primary author of multiple competitive funding grants received from public and private sources.
Zagor is the founder and co-chair of the Staten Island Coalition - Tracking Youth Substance Abuse, and sits on the Board of Directors of the Community Health Center of Richmond, the New York Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies, and the Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness.
Among her other current affiliations, she is a member of the SI
Women’s Leadership Council of the SIEDC and president of the SI
Committee on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
“Ms. Zagor is recognized by her peers, by her staff, and by community leaders for her important contributions to the development and delivery of children’s mental health services and for her dedication to improving the lives of Staten Island residents,” Mr. Tapinis said. “We are fortunate that she is continuing her career with our family.”
Immediately prior to joining the SIMHS, Zagor served as chief administrator of Community and Mental Health Services at the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center in Rockaway, where she had been employed since 1991. Among her achievements there, she was the primary author and project manager of the federal Safe Schools/Healthy Students proposal that brought nearly $9 million to Rockaway over a three-year period.
Zagor has been a consultant and has presented papers, testimony, and webcasts on diverse topics of community mental health and leadership development throughout the United States and Puerto Rico and has contributed to publications in the field. Well-known on the lecture circuit, she has addressed the numerous challenges of integrating behavioral health in a primary care setting.
In addition, she served as an adjunct professor and faculty advisor at Adelphi University School of Social Work for more than 20 years and directed the Adelphi/ Staten Island Program at South Beach Psychiatric Center.
Among her numerous honors and awards, she received Legislative Proclamations in 2005 in recognition of her community service from the United States Congress, the New York State Senate and Assembly, and the New York City Council. In 2004 she received a Community Service Award from the Rockaway Cultural Committee for “Devotion to Community Unity”; in 2002, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall awarded her a Declaration of Honor and named the day in her honor. She also received a Certificate of Appreciation from Governor George Pataki for innovative mental health services, as well as the Dorothy Gunning Award as an Outstanding Woman of Queens from former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman.
Zagor earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, magna cum laude, from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a Master’s degree in Social Work from Adelphi University Graduate School of Social Work, where she was also a Doctoral candidate in Policy/Administration. She has taken numerous post graduate courses and additional training in the behavioral health and related fields.