|Along with the important work each of us does every day, we have three large tasks ahead of us during the next two years. Per House Bill 2009, we will be transitioning into what will eventually be two agencies, the Department of Human Services and the Oregon Health Authority; we will be moving forward with efforts to improve the health of Oregonians and of our health care system; and we will enhance our efforts to ensure that vulnerable children, seniors, people with disabilities, and families are safe and protected.
During the past couple of weeks I have announced a number of staff changes. This week I announced that Erinn Kelley-Siel will be our director of the Children, Adults and Families Division (CAF), shedding the "interim" title and that Margaret Carter will be retiring from the Oregon Senate at the end of this month and joining DHS as the Deputy Director for human services programs. A few weeks before that I announced that Tina Edlund is joining DHS as deputy director of the Oregon Health Authority for planning and policy implementation.
Since those announcements, I have received many questions about the positions and next steps for the changes coming with the Health Authority, so over the next few weeks I want to spend some time answering those questions. This week I'll focus on the recent staff changes and next week on our plans for transitioning into two agencies.
The most common question I received this week was:
What took you so long to hire Erinn?
Indeed it took too long. Erinn kindly stepped in to lead CAF following the sudden passing of Bryan Johnston. At the same time, we opened up the position and began a search to fill it. Erinn was the best candidate. She has done a fantastic job over the past year and has the confidence of our staff, our stakeholders and myself.
Other questions I received this week have been:
Clyde Saiki is currently the deputy director for DHS. Is he leaving and is that position being filled by Margaret Carter?
No. Nothing is changing in the deputy director of DHS positions. Clyde and Jim Scherzinger remain in their deputy roles and there have been no changes in their duties. Clyde remains as deputy director for operations and he oversees all operational issues. If we were a corporation, he is the equivalent of a chief operating officer. Jim Scherzinger remains as deputy director for finance and oversees all our finances, the equivalent of a chief financial officer. The best way to think about the two new positions is that they will be specifically tied to the transition of our single agency into two agencies and they are part of my leadership team. In other organizational models, Margaret and Tina might be the equivalent of vice presidents for programs in DHS and OHA, respectively.
Does that mean Tina and Margaret are "in charge" of OHA and DHS?
No. The division heads: Erinn Kelley-Siel of CAF, James Toews of SPD, Jim Edge of DMAP, Richard Harris of AMH, Mel Kohn of Public Health and Jim Neely of ASD report directly to me. That has not changed. No one has a "new boss." Tina and Margaret will play distinct and important roles given the different issues facing OHA and DHS.
What will Tina and Margaret be doing?
The Oregon Health Authority is a new agency charged with overseeing health care administration in Oregon and with leading the charge toward comprehensive health care reform in our state. That's a huge and exciting undertaking and Tina is the first member of the team that's being put together to help with the transition. In the position of deputy director for planning and policy implementation, Tina is working with myself, Clyde, Jim Scherzinger and others in planning for the work of the new agency. She will also work closely with the Oregon Health Policy Board -- which will be appointed in September -- in coordinating, implementing and integrating their policies and recommendations. As you can imagine, with a new board charged with overseeing there is a lot of work to be done.
Margaret Carter, as deputy director for human services programs, will also have a distinct role unique to the challenges facing human services as we transition. Most importantly she will help lead the transition efforts on the human service programs side. One of my concerns, which I know is shared by some staff, stakeholders and legislators, is that as we create the new Oregon Health Authority the work of human services will somehow lessen in importance or attention. Margaret will see to it that this will not happen. She will be a strong advocate for improving the lives of our most vulnerable people and seeing to it that Oregon does not lose focus on our core services and that we continue to move forward with improving these services. She will also help lead the important work we are doing to protect and enhance the safety and security of children, seniors and people with disabilities, and to directly address and correct the over-representation of Native American and African American children in our foster care system.