As part of an ongoing reorganization of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Medicaid Director Dawn Stehle is being named deputy director for health and Medicaid, making her one of two DHS deputy directors. Meanwhile DHS is creating a centralized policy review committee that will report directly to Director Cindy Gillespie.
Stehle previously reported to Deputy Director Mark White, who has left the agency to work for the Arkansas Public School Resource Center.
Earlier this year, consultant John Stephen told legislators the Medicaid director should be a deputy director because of Medicaid’s significant use of resources and staff.
“Given that Medicaid’s budget accounts for $7.6 billion of our budget this fiscal year, making our Medicaid team lead a direct report was an easy decision,” Gillespie said in a DHS press release Tuesday. “It makes sense for the person responsible for Medicaid to report directly to me rather than through a deputy director.”
Stehle, 36, was named Medicaid director in 2014 after serving as interim director.
A senior Medicaid policy advisor will be named later.
DHS administers a wide range of services, including Medicaid and the private option, which provides private health insurance to lower-income adults. It administers programs serving nursing homes, developmentally disabled Arkansans, and foster children.
The centralized policy committee will vet all substantive policy changes prior to Gillespie’s review, according to the press release. It will be chaired by DHS Chief Counsel David Sterling, who also will become Gillespie’s senior legal advisor, a position previously held by White.
Other members are DHS Chief of Staff Brian Bowen; Stehle; Deputy Director Keesa Smith; Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Chief Kelley Linck; Chief of Finance Mark Story; and Director of the DHS Office of Payment Integrity and Audit John Parke. The committee becomes active Sept. 1.
Since becoming director March 1 at a salary of $280,000, Gillespie has been leading a reorganization of the department, starting with a 60-day review of its business operations. The department reduced its 10 divisions to nine and created a structure of seven offices to manage some of the responsibilities those divisions were handling individually, such as procurement, human resources, finance and information technology.
Gillespie said in the press release she is continuing to study “how to make the agency a more client-centered organization that also has the ability to better recruit and retain high-performing employees.”