John Snook – Treatment Advocacy Center’s Executive Director Moving To Behavioral Healthcare Association

(1-1-21)  John Snook is resigning as executive director at the Treatment Advocacy Center after six years overseeing its operations, the non-profit announced today. He has accepted a job as Director of Government Relations and Strategic Initiatives at the National Association for Behavioral Healthcare, a Washington DC-based association that represents America’s largest psychiatric hospital chains.

His departure creates openings at the helms of two major mental health non-profits. Mental Health America’s President and CEO Paul Gionfriddo announced earlier this month that he is retiring in the new year. MHA is the oldest  mental health advocacy group founded by former mental patients.

TAC was founded in 1988 by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey to advocate “for the elimination of barriers to effective treatment for individuals with severe mental illness.” Its focus has always been on serious mental illnesses. One of its core missions is to advocate for greater use of Assisted Outpatient Treatment. It also has pushed for more inpatient crisis care beds. TAC’s current Director of Advocacy, Lisa Dailey, will serve as TAC’s acting director until its board selects a successor.

I was told that John is leaving on good terms for career advancement. NABH is about twice the size of TAC in gross revenues. NABH members include more than 800 specialty psychiatric hospitals, general hospital psychiatric and addiction treatment units, residential treatment centers, youth services organizations, and other providers of care.

I enjoyed working with John on the ISMICC committee that advises Congress about mental health and substance issues. He was always thoughtful, congenial and quietly effective in promoting his and TAC’s agenda.

How TAC Changed John Snook’s Life

How John ended up becoming TAC’s Executive Director is an interesting story that he recently wrote about on the non-profit’s website. His first introduction to TAC, he reported, “changed the course of my life.”

As I began finals in my first year of law school, a loved one of mine suffered a psychotic break. This individual had left a job in finance unexpectedly, following secret symbols on billboards, eventually ending up 1,200 miles away in Miami.  I was at a loss. I didn’t know anyone in Miami. I had never been to the city in my life.  

Even if I did, I certainly didn’t have the resources to fly there and search the streets, especially in the middle of some of the most important tests of my life! 

Out of options, I approached my law school dean, Daniel Polsby, for advice. Dean Polsby was similarly at a loss, but he had an idea. A mental health organization had begun teaching a class at the law school: mental illness and the law. Perhaps they might have some ideas? 

That organization was the Treatment Advocacy Center.

I met the TAC team and we formulated a plan.

Eventually, they put me in contact with the Florida Sheriffs Association and local mental health officials. Together, we found my loved one, navigated the byzantine Florida mental health system, and eventually got this person help.  I was lucky.

With the Treatment Advocacy Center’s assistance, our crisis had a positive ending. My relative got the help that was needed and I was able to finish my law school finals and move ahead with my education.  

But my focus had shifted.  

For the first time, I realized that, not only were there others that recognized how broken our mental health system was, but there were people actually doing something about it.  
I had to be a part of it. 

I began interning for the Treatment Advocacy Center, eventually taking a position as legislative and policy counsel after I passed the bar.  

In that role, I saw firsthand how outdated laws and policies were hurting the most severely ill and people who loved them. I saw how our treatment system failed to provide enough treatment beds and community resources, forcing law enforcement and our jails to pick up the slack. 

Eventually, I left the Treatment Advocacy Center to start the state advocacy shop for Habitat for Humanity International. There I had the opportunity to help shape the nation’s response to the foreclosure crisis and to build on the advocacy skills I learned at TAC in both the federal and state legislatures.  

But my heart was always in mental health.

And so, I jumped at the opportunity to return to the Treatment Advocacy Center as executive director.

Now I have the privilege to guide this organization during one of the most important times for mental health in the history of our nation. 

Our work has necessarily expanded, but I have never forgotten how I first encountered the organization and what their assistance meant for my family and me.  

The Treatment Advocacy Center is many things, but first and foremost, it is an assemblage of people who care about helping those with the most severe mental illness.

Whether we are busy changing laws, providing technical assistance to a burgeoning assisted outpatient treatment program or explaining the treatment system to a reporter, that passion fuels all of our work. 

I know the impact TAC can have during the most difficult moments in a person’s life because it helped me during one of those difficult moments.

In a press release today, TAC’s Board Chair, Dr. Michael Knable, wrote:

“We are proud of John’s many accomplishments…During his tenure, John presided over the publication of 15 major research reports, guided the passage of the bipartisan mental health reforms of the 21s Century Cures Act, secured more than $70 million in federal funding for assisted outpatient treatment programs around the United States, and oversaw the passage of 44 new laws designed to improve access to treatment for people with severe mental illness. We are grateful for his impactful leadership and are excited to continue partnering with him in his new role.”

On Monday, I will post a departing Question and Answer blog with John about TAC.





About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.