Governor Gina Raimondo has picked Jamia McDonald, a respected state government veteran, for a high-profile role within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
Raimondo has signaled that she wants former lieutenant governor Elizabeth Roberts, the governor's nominee to lead EOHHS, to make Rhode Island a national leader in controlling Medicaid costs. The EOHHS secretariat encompasses four state departments, including some -- the departments of Children, Youth and Families, and Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals -- marked by frequent budget overruns.
Raimondo's administration said McDonald's first task will be "to start the turnaround of the troubled Department of Children, Youth and Families."
"My top priority is creating a stronger Rhode Island for our children and families to be safe and healthy," Raimondo said in a statement "Another priority is fostering innovation in state government. It is no secret that our team is inheriting several significant management and budget challenges at DCYF. Jamia has led the team that over the last year diagnosed these problems and now she stands ready to take action and make the necessary improvements that our kids deserve."
McDonald worked in the Carcieri and Chafee administrations, most recently as head of the state Emergency Management Agency. She will continue to receive the same salary, $138,489, in her new role, where her charge will include analyzing and devising solutions for challenges facing EOHHS agencies and programs.
In announcing McDonald's appointment, Raimondo's administration shared a copy of a DCYF working group report that it says shows a fractured and inconsistent system of care. The governor's office says a national search is being conducted for a new director for the agency.
In related news, the Providence Journal reported that the former head of BHDDH, Craig Stenning, will be on paid leave for two weeks after being laid-off by the Raimondo administration.