After a national search, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said Sept. 30 that Jessica Pollard was appointed director of the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.
Pollard has an extensive background in the field of early psychosis treatment and research. She joined DHHS from the Yale University School of Medicine, where she has served as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry since 2013.
At Yale, she served as clinical director of Early Psychosis Services, overseeing the internationally recognized Specialized Treatment in Early Psychosis Program and Psychosis Risk Identification Management and Education Clinic.
This appointment marks a return to Maine for Pollard, who was born and raised in Penobscot County, and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Maine at Farmington, double majoring in psychology and interdisciplinary studies.
She earned a master's degree and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Connecticut.
While at the University of Connecticut, she worked for the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services in Connecticut, studying and implementing jail diversion programs and interventions for people struggling with homelessness.
Pollard then completed a two-year fellowship training at Yale University in community mental health and early intervention for psychotic disorders.
Pollard previously served as director of the Aware Program at the Acadia Hospital in Bangor before founding a private mental health practice in Bangor. During this time, she also taught research methods at Husson University in Bangor and was a practicum supervisor for the University of Maine at Orono and University of New England.
Pollard serves as chairwoman of the Mental Health Section of the American Public Health Association and has presented across the world on topics such as early intervention strategies for youth facing mental health challenges and partnering with the justice system to improve mental health treatment.
Pollard is licensed as a psychologist in both Maine and Connecticut.
"Dr. Pollard brings a wealth of clinical experience as well as research credentials to this position and we are delighted to welcome her back to Maine," said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew, in a news release. "We know that substance use and mental health disorders are closely linked, and Dr. Pollard will lead our work to integrate and strengthen these services in Maine."
"I am thrilled to be back in my home state doing what I love – working to ensure access to high-quality, evidence-based services for all Mainers with mental health challenges and substance use disorders," said Pollard. "We know that recovery is not only possible, it's likely when people have the right support. I look forward to working with staff, Director of Opioid Response Gordon Smith and partners throughout the state to make sure Maine people have this help."
"Dr. Pollard returns to Maine with a wealth of experience that will benefit our response to the opioid crisis," said Gordon Smith, Maine's Director of Opioid Response. "The Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services serves a critical role in addressing Opioid Use Disorder as part of the wider spectrum of behavioral health. I am confident that Dr. Pollard will be an important asset to our team, delivering the message that recovery from Opioid Use Disorder is not only possible but probable with the necessary support."
Dr. Pollard began her new role today as Director of SAMHS.
Former SAMHS Director Sheldon Wheeler has transitioned to a position within the Department's Office for Family Independence.