Richard Birkel
Richard Birkel
Catholic Charities of Oregon has named a nonprofit leader, public health activist and researcher as its new executive director.

Richard Birkel has worked in social service for more than three decades, serving diverse communities to address health disparities and to achieve social justice. He is recognized as a national expert on a range of public health issues including mental health, disability and family caregiving. He holds a doctorate in psychology and a master’s in public administration from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree from Yale.

Birkel joins Catholic Charities at a time when the organization works with more than twenty thousand people each year through a range of social services and affordable housing. Catholic Charities’ mission is to serve the poorest and most vulnerable. It acts as the official social service arm of the Catholic Church in western Oregon and aims to assist clients by helping them meet economic and personal goals and by supporting their physical and social well-being.

Birkel has most recently served as senior vice president for health at the National Council on Aging in the nation’s capital. There he led efforts to integrate the work of primary healthcare providers with community service organizations to create “Health Neighborhoods” to better serve older adults and their caregivers. Previous positions also include serving as chief executive of the Rosalynn Carter Institute on Caregiving and the National Alliance on Mental Illness and as president of the Joseph P. Kennedy Institute for Developmental Disabilities under Cardinal James Hickey.

Birkel has worked closely with Latino and African American leaders in Washington, DC to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS and substance abuse. While at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, he established the Multicultural Action Center focusing on disparities in mental health treatment. Also at NAMI, he formed the Latino Leadership Council to spearhead efforts to develop culturally appropriate outreach and treatment strategies for the community.

Birkel is delighted to be taking up his new role at Catholic Charities and is looking forward to the task ahead,

“I am honored to be selected to lead the great work of Catholic Charities of Oregon. In a time of rapid change, Catholic Charities is a constant beacon of hope for those in greatest need. I look forward to joining the outstanding staff, Board and partners of Catholic Charities to serve the diverse people of Oregon.”
Archbishop Alexander Sample, welcomed Birkel to the Catholic Charities family.

“Through my interaction with Rick, I know that he will be firmly committed to the mission of Catholic Charities and the rich tradition of Catholic social teaching,” the archbishop said. “I personally look forward to a close working relationship with him. The mission and work of Catholic Charities remains very high on my list of priorities for the Catholic Church in our communities.”

Henry Chin, chair of the board of Catholic Charities says Birkel brings “depth of leadership, nonprofit and business experience.”

Birkel will begin work when he and his wife, Katherine, move to Portland in September.