Robert J. Lerner, who led MHASP for 20 years, dies at 83

Robert J. Lerner, who served as Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania from 1977 to his retirement in 1997, died on Jan. 13, 2015, of anaplastic thyroid cancer. He was 83.

According to his obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “During his tenure, the association played a lead role in pressing for changes to the state’s mental health system, which included closing the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry and developing a community-based care system for its patients.” 

Joseph Rogers, MHASP’s Executive Director from 1997 to 2007 and now its Chief Advocacy Officer, said, “Bob Lerner hired me and many of the other folks who helped develop a strong, effective voice of consumers and families in southeastern Pennsylvania. We raised a lot of Cain together.”   

Estelle Richman, who served as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Public Welfare for seven years before leaving to take a high-ranking position at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, wrote the following comment on the guestbook:  “Bob was a wonderful support to me while I was at the State and particularly while I was Mental Health Director in the City. Without Bob, we could not have made the spectacular progress. Thank you, Bob!”

For the Philadelphia Inquirer obituary, click here.