Ron Lagergren serves as Unity Center’s Director of Clinical Operations. Below, he shares thoughts on his role, the importance of always prioritizing patients first, and what draws him to behavioral health.
Tell us about your background. What draws you to your work and how did you get started?
I have served in behavioral health for 32 years. After graduating with my master’s degree in social work (MSW) in 1990 from Portland State, I began working in hospitals, starting off as a social worker in a psychiatric unit. Eventually I moved into a leadership role, where I co-managed an inpatient unit. My background spans mental health and addictions services for all ages, from children to geriatric. I also spent 6 years working in government for two counties in Oregon, managing behavioral health, and community-based services, including the first peer developed service in the state.
Originally, I wanted to be a private-practice therapist, so that’s why I pursued an MSW. But I found that my passion is in crisis and acute care work, so all my experience has been centered around helping individuals in acute distress, whether direct service or development of programs. You never know what to expect from day-to-day, and that’s what I like. I like constant change and always being busy.
I grew up on a farm in Roy, Washington – a small town between Tacoma and Mt. Rainier. We had cows, pigs, horses, sheep, chickens, geese, and of course, lots of cats and dogs. Living there instilled in me a love of animals that remains to this day. My mom, who is almost 80 years old, still lives there and runs the farm each day, bucking hay, chopping wood, and caring for many animals. I feel lucky to have inherited her independence and strong work ethic.
When did you join Unity Center’s team? Tell us about your role and how you help Unity Center patients and its staff.
I joined Unity Center in spring of 2021 after working for Providence. The role really appealed to me because it brought together all my experience in one position. I enjoy the challenges and all the outstanding work Unity Center does.
I believe that the patient should be at the center of everything we do. After all, it is the reason we are all here. I am also a strong believer in empowering patients to make their own decisions. That’s a core belief in social work. Patient voice is critical.
I believe consistency in programming is really important. It helps us and patients know what to anticipate and expect. I believe everyone is responsible for patient care. I’m also a data nerd. I believe data should guide our decisions. It helps us to be more objective.
What do you find rewarding about your work?
We have a great staff and leadership at Unity. It’s an extremely positive work environment, which I truly enjoy. It’s a high-demand role that requires great flexibility. I like fixing problems and creating standard workflows that are efficient.
Tell us about something you’ve accomplished at Unity.
Recently, I led an effort to create a quality dashboard for our CareOregon patients. The dashboard tracks our contracted quality metrics. The dashboard focuses on substance use, referrals and caring contacts. The data will help inform CareOregon on services that need to be developed in the community. Getting the dashboard off the ground and implemented in a short period of time was a great accomplishment. I’m looking forward to developing more dashboards that inform our decision making.
What are you doing when you’re not at work?
I play a lot of volleyball! I’ve been playing for about 30 years. I love to cook and bake, hang out with friends and play card games. One of our favorites is double deck pinochle. We even have tournaments with big potlucks.