Categories: Health Care, Social ServicesPublished On: May 10th, 2022

When any organization undergoes a leadership transition it can be difficult to have continuity for employees and more importantly for the clients or patients. When long-time leader Carrie Cooper left her post as the CEO of the Guidance Center of Lea County, the organization found itself in need of someone who could come in and continue to guide the organization as it provides critical mental health and social services for the Lea County community. The board was lucky enough to find a mental health practitioner and advocate to take over the reins. Meet Michael Foust, a successful leader of highly diverse professional teams with an agile approach to culture development. Michael has consulted around the country as an organizational culture developer and social justice educator.

We are excited to get to know him better.

How did you come to the job as CEO of the Guidance Center of Lea County? What is your background? 

I am a Clinical Social Worker by trade. I cut my teeth working with teens in a group home in my hometown of Durham, NC prior to going back to receiving my MSW at East Carolina University. After grad school I moved to Atlanta and began work with teens and families in foster care and long-term residential psychiatric hospitals. I did the same in Chattanooga, TN for a few years then back to Atlanta where I began to hone my organizational leadership and management skills.

In 2017, I took a role as Executive Director of a Community Behavioral Health Center for Western Montana Mental Health Center in Bozeman, Montana. I quickly ascended from that role into an Area Director Role with Western. As an Area Director, I was responsible for managing six acute crisis stabilization units across seventeen Western Montana counties and two Behavioral Health Centers that served seven counties.

Looking for a new opportunity to grow personally and professionally I learned of the Guidance Center CEO role. I began working with an experienced recruiter, Bruce Scott, and the Guidance Center Board to become more intimate with the role. During my diligence process, I found GCLC has taken ownership of creating whole-person wellness in Lea County, which spoke to me. As result, I wanted to come a do my part to grow that identity.

What are you most excited about in taking over as CEO? 

The people, I am most excited about working with a team that grows their identity by solving complex social issues.

What is the most unexpected thing about Lea County?”

It has been colder than I thought it would be. 😊 One is never sure how people will receive them when they move to a new town; however, the warm welcome I have receive reminds me of the people I call friends and family. Such warmth is greatly appreciated.

What is something about the Guidance Center of Lea County that you didn’t expect? 

One can see the potential on paper but cannot fully understand the capacity of an organization until intimately connected. The depth and quality of services we provide is significantly understated and often uncelebrated. I desire to celebrate as a community the richness of the Guidance Center of Lea County.


What is one thing people don’t understand about mental health that you think everyone should understand? 

 Our complexity as a whole person. In short, Humans are more than a body. To achieve whole-person wellness, we must nurture our mind, heart, and body. Our attention has been focused on healing the physical body, which is well mapped out; however, the unique complexities of caring for the mind continues to be mysterious and debated in our society. The individual construction one’s unique psychology, and how-to best care for and heal it, has led us to a complicated discussion of how to best care for ourselves and others. (Part of my leadership style is to remind myself not to turn a complex problem into a complicated one.)

What is the biggest challenge for this community to deal with when it comes to mental health? 

At GCLC we see challenges as opportunity to grow. Our greatest opportunity as a community is not one of service or treatment program. Our biggest opportunity of growth is developing a community that values whole-person wellness and will act to ensure all people have access to our greatest of intentions. If we accomplish this output then the wellness outcomes will appear.

In line with the complexity, I often ask people what the Guidance Center of Lea County (GCLC) represents. Most often the answer is associated with programs that help people with behavioral health issues. I take a different view of this question. I believe the Guidance Center is one place in our community where we see sociomoral dilemma in action. At the Guidance Center we live three little questions that have alluded answer: First, should we care for our neighbors -most often our most vulnerable with no great capitalistic contribution? Secondly, how will we care for each other? Lastly, how far are we willing to go to care for one another?

Now for some fun questions

What sites around this community are you hoping to see? 

Ruidoso – Carlsbad for Hiking – Football game at Texas Tech

Red or green chile? 

Red and hot.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you?

I am a BBQ snob. It is my NC roots.