Board Chair Tom Fagan Sets His Sights on Continued Growth and Improvement
Dr. Tom Fagan
Thomas J. Fagan, PhD, CCHP-MH, has become chair of NCCHC’s board of directors. After serving one year as chair-elect, he took the helm on Oct. 21 during the board’s annual meeting in Las Vegas.
Fagan is a clinical psychologist with a long and distinguished career as an advocate for health and mental health care in corrections. In his nearly 25 years with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Fagan worked as a psychologist and psychology administrator, ultimately serving as director of clinical training. At the BOP, he helped develop correctional mental health programs, policies and procedures, and also trained professional, paraprofessional and correctional staff. For many years, he was the prison system’s chief hostage negotiator, and he has presented programs on correctional hostage negotiation to departments of correction across the country.
After retiring from the BOP, Fagan returned to academia, serving as a professor and associate dean of psychology at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. There, he says, he worked to “motivate the current generation of students to consider careers in corrections.”
Professional Commitment and Expertise
Few people know more about NCCHC’s work than Fagan. In his 22-year tenure on the board as liaison of the American Psychological Association, he has served on and chaired numerous committees, including a term as chairman in 2004. He also has been instrumental in spearheading programs to help meet the challenges presented by the growing population of inmates with mental illness. Notable activities include the following:
- Co-chaired the task force that developed the latest edition of the Standards for Mental Health Services in Correctional Facilities
- Helped to create NCCHC’s annual Correctional Mental Health Care Conference
- Chaired the committee that developed a certification for correctional mental health professionals; he also was among the first to become certified as a CCHP-MH
Fagan has widely shared his wisdom and expertise as a consultant, teacher, researcher, author and lecturer. Earlier in his career he taught at several colleges in Virginia, and throughout his career he has given countless presentations on a wide range of mental health topics. His resume lists dozens of published articles, book chapters and textbooks, including the highly regarded books “Correctional Mental Health Handbook” and “Correctional Mental Health: From Theory to Practice,” both coauthored with Robert Ax.
From Intern to Eminent Leader
What draws Fagan to this line of work? A BOP internship was Fagan’s first job after grad school in 1976, and while his classmates could not understand that choice, he explains, “I loved the clinical diversity and intensity of correctional work and I simply didn’t leave.”
At that time, the enormous surge in correctional mental health populations was right around the corner, and he witnessed prevalence rates of seriously mental illness rise from about 2% or 3% to 20% of jail and prison inmates, and a much higher percentage with less severe disorders. This dramatic shift changed correctional mental health practice, Fagan says, and presented huge challenges.
That’s why he was excited to learn about NCCHC in the mid-1990s, when his boss brought him to copresent at a conference. “It was one of those WOW experiences for me,” he recalls. “For the first time, I was with people who were doing exactly what I was doing. I had found my professional home.”
Now he is a leader and caretaker of that home. And his goals as chair are as expansive as his achievements to date: “I will work closely with the board and staff to improve and grow NCCHC’s accreditation program, expand educational program offerings to new audiences and through additional venues, and enhance NCCHC’s reputation as the preeminent organization dedicated to correctional health care.”