Psych Services: HPD names Dr. Stephen Tate head of Psych Services

Lisa Garmezy

Dr. Stephen Tate took the reins at Psychological Services following the retirement of Dr. Verdi Lethermon. Our new police administrator is a former minister, the recipient of a doctorate in psychology from Wheaton College Graduate School and a father of five.

Dr. Tate brings to Psychological Services a fresh perspective on accomplishing our mission—providing the best possible services to employees of the Department so that they can provide the best possible service to the citizens of Houston.

“We’re going to make ourselves more visible as a staff,” Stephen said. Increased contact with our doctors will help you see us as experienced consultants, not “headshrinkers.”

The Psych Services staff would like to decrease the stigma attached to counseling.

“If officers see us at roll calls, ride-alongs, and meetings,” he said, “they’ll be more encouraged to refer people who need help. When we teach at the jail, for example, we get follow-up calls and clients coming in who realized that the services they needed were here.”

Stephen welcomes all HPD employees and their family members to the Psychological Services Division. He is dedicated to exhibiting HPD’s core values of Honor, Integrity, and Respect in every aspect of our daily work.

Armed with a Plan

The new leader’s first task is hiring. We’re approved to find a doctor to fill his vacant staff psychologist position.  We also plan to hire a new office manager. Since two secretaries were laid off in 2009, as Stephen put it, “We’ve been limping along.” We want you to reach a human when you call.

Next, Stephen envisions more standardized crisis plans. For example, periodically we get calls about someone who needs to be off the streets temporarily because of personal issues. He envisions a brochure or similar tool that can be on hand to guide supervisors through this situation. Stephen looks forward to collaborating more closely with the Mental Health Division and other department personnel on this project.

Our anger management programs are set to expand. Officers do tend to shift toward a more negative outlook as time passes, Stephen said. Then, “when things fall apart in the officer’s life,” cynicism can turn into rage.

Better to Face It

“I hope this doesn’t make people turn away,” he said, “but we just have to address the issue of alcoholism in this department.”

Stephen has worked extensively in this area. In his experience, “Whether you’re rich, poor, prominent, not prominent, if you have an addiction, it’s going to affect you. Combine that with a weapon and personal problems and the door opens to thinking about ending your life.”

Help with substance abuse has been and will continue to be available at our office. It’s time to draw the line between social use and need, between partying and compulsion.

None of this will happen overnight, but our new police administrator is a long-range thinker. When he interviewed, Stephen presented Chief Vazquez with a five-year and 10-year plan for the Division’s development. One of his ideas is opening a satellite office. The trek up 45 North can be ugly, especially when bringing children to after-school appointments.

Introductions

Trusting strangers with your deepest secrets isn’t natural. So let’s talk about who Stephen is personally and why you’re in good hands when you take the plunge.

Stephen was a licensed minister who gave up that license when he moved to Texas. His theological training encourages him to promote spiritual growth as a path to mental health, although he won’t go there unless you do.

The first thing you notice in Stephen’s office isn’t a framed passage from Scripture, however, or the family photos. The red Ohio State Buckeyes rug assaults your senses, I mean, welcomes you. Apparently the Buckeyes are big in Stephen’s hometown of Findlay, Ohio.

Stephen notes that he’s pleasantly challenged by having a University of Michigan Wolverine, Dr. Bill Metcalfe, in the office. Dr. Meagan Houston, Dr. Maren Jones, Dr. Camille Shea and I round out the professional staff. Benaye Boone and Dora Mendez make up our excellent administrative staff.

 The Track Record

The boss was serious when he said, “I love the privilege of being in this position.” He enthused, “I absolutely am excited about this opportunity.” Stephen considers the Houston Police Department to be “one of the finest law enforcement departments in the United States” and feels he’s never worked for a better organization.

He told me he never expected this promotion. It follows nine years of paying dues at HPD, teaching, screening recruits and doing therapy in his careful, compassionate style. After work, Stephen, Staci and their children have studied taekwondo together for the last three years. All are close to earning black belts.

At our last staff meeting, Stephen shared that his kids spontaneously came to their father and prayed for his success in his new role. Again, five middle schoolers—did I say he has twins and triplets?—came up with this on their own. That speaks to the man’s achievements better than any resume item ever could.