Funder: Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit

May 2013 |

EvansA passionate and lifelong advocate for improving the quality of mental health care, Leon Evans has worked in hospitals, community organizations, and state agencies throughout his career. As head of the Center for Health Care Services for over a decade, he developed an award-winning jail diversion program and has become a national leader in improving mental health care through multi-stakeholder collaboration.


Leon Evans’ passion for working with complex populations originated during his sophomore year as a business and finance major at the University of Oklahoma, when he began volunteering on the children’s unit of a nearby state mental health hospital. “I fell in love with the children there, and changed my major to special education and psychology the next semester.” He continued his work with complex and special-needs populations, working with medically fragile individuals at a state-run center for individuals with developmental disabilities, and conducting research on autism at a university lab.

He moved to Texas in the 1970s to help establish community mental health centers as part of a National Institute of Mental Health initiative, eventually entering the field of public mental health administration as director of community services for the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. It was here that Mr. Evans grew “painfully aware of the criminalization of the mentally ill,” and decided he wanted to do something about this growing issue.


Profiles in Innovation are a product of the Center for Health Care Strategies’ Complex Care Innovation Lab, made possible by Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit, which is bringing together leading innovators working to improve care for vulnerable populations with complex medical and social needs. These profiles highlight Innovation Lab participants and examine their pioneering work.