60th Anniversary: Mark Spofford

Jul 22, 2021

Mark Spofford

As part of LifeWorks NW’s 60th Anniversary memory-capturing project, Dr. Mark Spofford agreed to talk with us about his 10 years at the agency, beginning in January 1988.

“It’s been 23 years since I left what was then called Tualatin Valley Health Center,” says Mark. “I had many roles while I was there. I was hired to be director of the Tigard outpatient clinic but quickly was transferred to be Director of what was then called Older Adult Services. I had a clinical specialty in Geriatric Psychology, and I came from a hospital in Boise, Idaho, where I’d developed and directed a brand new Geriatric Services program. After 4 or 5 years, I was promoted into associate executive director and clinical director of the agency.

“Probably in late 1996 or early 1997 the board requested that I serve as acting executive director. That role lasted about a year while they searched for a permanent executive director. Although I was encouraged to apply, I declined. It was not a role that I particularly enjoyed, nor do I believe fits my personality and talents. That being said, I feel I did a good job during the year I was in that role. When I took over the agency, we had significant debt as well a poor morale. When I left, the agency was back in the black (I give significant credit to the CFO at that time) and morale had, I believe, significantly improved.”

The mid-‘90s was a difficult time for most community mental health organizations in Oregon. The state was trying to get control of the Medicaid budget by experimenting with new funding models and developing coordinated care. This resulted in increased competition among agencies, a variety of mergers, and significant innovations by agencies.

“This was occurring before I became Acting ED,” says Mark. “And I was not really the leader of those efforts. But I prided myself in being part of the negotiating team, especially playing the role of analyzing financial and productivity data to make sure the agency would be fairly treated in any mergers that did occur. That behind-the-scenes role was one I enjoyed and believe I did well. As a result, there were a variety of mergers and negotiations about how to collaborate.”

Finally, after 10 years at LifeWorks NW, Mark moved on and worked for a time in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and Bellingham, Washington, but ultimately decided to stay in Portland. He became manager of Behavioral Health Services in the primary health clinics of Multnomah County Health Department supervising all the nurse practitioners, social workers and therapists.

Asked what he was most proud of at LifeWorks NW, Mark says he believes he brought a lot of clinical rigor to Older Adult services where he and the clinical director of that program, Pat Andeen wrote a number of program grants. They were able to start an Older Adult Day Treatment Program, significantly funded by a grant from the Murdock Charitable Trust. According to Mark, it was Pat who really was responsible for implementing the program and developing all the policies and procedures.

“Perhaps what I was most proud of was the trust the clinical directors and administrative staff managers apparently had in me,” says Mark. “They supported the decision to make me Acting ED and supported all the changes that were required during the year I was in that role.”

Asked what he’d most like to share with readers about the agency, Mark talks about the innovations and developments that have happened since his time there.

“It’s a wonderful organization, and Mary Monnat [the current CEO] was born for this job as far as I can tell and has just been incredibly valuable and responsible for its growth,” says Mark. “And its really her commitment to that agency [that led to its incredible success].

He credits Mary with incredibly innovative alcohol and drug treatment services that came after his time, particularly the residential treatment programs for mothers.

“The commitment and services provided to patients with alcohol and drug disorders are, I think, the shining star in the community,” he says. “I had nothing to do with any of that; I was a director who supported Mary. And her commitment and growth in the African American community is outstanding. LifeWorks NW stands out as probably the favorite of the many organizations I have worked for, and I have many lasting friendships with people who have worked there.”