Appointment of psychologist to county’s Behavioral Health Advisory Council delayed until January for staff to research her background

Commissioner Moran calls for the action

Jody Kashden. Image from the website of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

At the request of Sarasota County Commissioner Michael Moran, the board members this week agreed to table until their regular meeting on Jan. 10, 2024 a decision on whether to appoint Jody Kashden of Sarasota to fill out an unexpired term on the county’s Behavioral Health Advisory Council (BHAC).

The commissioners’ Dec. 12 meeting agenda included Kashden’s appointment as part of their Consent Agenda of routine business matters.

A county staff memo included in the board packet said that the unexpired term involved a seat on the BHAC for a “health services professional, psychiatrist, psychologist or behavioral health professional licensed to practice in the State of Florida.” The term is effective through June 2025.

In fact, the memo noted, because one other seat had not been filled on the advisory council, the BHAC has two vacancies. The second one “will continue to be advertised until filled,” the memo pointed out.

The County Commission named the first members to that advisory council in 2022, following a reorganization of the county’s process for awarding annual grants to “human services providers.” Moran had led the effort to split the decision-making about those annual grants between two councils. The other, original board that handled the grant applications review is called the Human Services Advisory Council. (HSAC)

The BHAC has seven members, the county website notes:

  • A Sarasota County School Board member or a designated representative employed by the Sarasota County School Board.
  • The Sarasota County sheriff or a designated representative employed by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Three health services professionals — psychiatrists, psychologists, or behavioral health professionals licensed to practice in the State of Florida.
  • Two at-large citizen representatives.

The terms are for three years.

Moran had pulled the item from the Consent Agenda for discussion.

A psychologist, “Dr. Kashden,” he said, “has an incredible resume.” However, he noted, on her application for the BHAC seat, she did not specify the organizations on whose boards she has served in the past. She wrote in that section only that they were boards of “various nonprofit organizations.”

“To keep with our systems and procedures that we went to great lengths with” in regard to the work of the BHAC and the Human Services Advisory Council (HSAC), Moran pointed out, he would like to have county staff ask Kashden for a list of those nonprofits. “We’ve actually declined folks [for seats on the BHAC and HSAC], given their intense relationship with some of the applicants related to the money that’s getting funded,” Moran added.

During a number of discussions in recent years, Moran explained the need for the reorganization of the advisory board review process as a means of eliminating what he has referenced as undue pressure exerted by — or what he has characterized as inappropriate relationships linking — past HSAC members to nonprofit organizations that routinely apply for the annual county grants.

“I can’t see Dr. Kashden not going forward on Jan. 10,” Moran added. “I’m happy to move [her appointment] forward on Jan. 10 if there’s no conflict,” he told his colleagues.

“I see no objection to that,” Chair Ron Cutsinger said after looking to the other commissioners.

In the resume she attached to her BHAC application — which she submitted to the county on Oct. 16, a chart shows — Kashden wrote that she has been a clinical psychologist with CHE Behavioral Health Services in Sarasota since November 2022. She also has served as senior director of clinical development and performance improvement at Penn Medicine Princeton House Behavioral Health in Princeton, N.J., since September 2020, the resume notes.

She began her professional career as a university clinic therapist at the Quinn Curtis Center in Morgantown, W.V., the resume says. She held that position from July 1989 until July 1992.

This is a section of Jody Kashden’s resume, which was attached to her application for the BHAC seat. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Further, her resume points out that she has been a licensed psychologist in the state of New Jersey since 2006 and in the state of Florida since 2021.

In response to the application question about why she wanted to serve on the advisory council, Kashden wrote, “I have worked for many years in the Behavioral Health field, as a direct service provider, and a Clinical Director. I wish to give back to my community and support excellent behavioral health service in Sarasota County.”