By Gina Macris
Maria Montanaro, director of Rhode Island's Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) since February, 2015, will resign from her post effective June 24, according to a statement from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
"Montanaro will continue to work tirelessly in the weeks ahead to secure the additional funding that Governor (Gina) Raimondo has advocated to support the requirements of a 2014 federal consent decree and provide higher-quality services for Rhode Islanders living with developmental disabilities," the statement said.
Health and Human Services Secretary Elizabeth Roberts named Rebecca (Becky) Boss, the deputy director of BHDDH, to lead the department during a transition to new permanent leadership, the statement said.
In a letter to friends and colleagues, Montanaro said that the governor and Roberts "have been 'very supportive' of my decision, which as you can imagine, I have come to with mixed emotions."
She said she had "every hope" of seeing through the changes that have begun in BHDDH, "but the demands of the job, coupled with the constraints facing the Department have led me to conclude that my personal and professional priorities would be better met by returning to the private sector."
Montanaro, a native Rhode Islander and an experienced health care administrator, had never worked in state government before taking the BHDDH job.
In her letter, Montanaro said, "I am sorry to leave my role after such a short tenure, but I must follow my own wisdom in determining what is right for me at this stage of my life."
"I have been very honored to serve the State at Governor Raimondo's request. I think the work we have undertaken at my direction sets the Department and its various divisions on the right road" to ensure the agency's clients get the services they need and the care to which they are entitled, Montanaro said in the letter.
In the EOHHS statement, Raimondo said, "Over the past 18 months, Maria has worked tirelessly to address inherited challenges at BHDDH that are holding us back from providing safe, high-quality care to some of Rhode Island's most vulnerable residents."
"While our work is far from over, with Maria's leadership we have made substantial progress and built a solid foundation for future reform," the Governor continued. "Maria has also played a critical role in our work to develop and implement an action plan to save lives from drug overdose. I am grateful to her for making BHDDH a stronger agency and positioning us for success in the next phase of reforms," she said.
Roberts said, "I am thankful for Maria's strong and effective leadership of BHDDH."
"Under her tenure, we have strengthened the leadership team at Eleanor Slater Hospital, improved compliance with the Consent Decree to provide integrated, community based services for Rhode Islanders living with developmental disabilities, and taken swift action to ensure safety and improve accountability and transparency at our state-run group homes."
Montanaro was president and CEO of Thundermist Health Center in Rhode Island from 1997 to 2011. Sheworked as a senior advisor at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island briefly before taking a job as CEO of Magellan Behavioral Care of Iowa in September, 2012. Montanaro returned to Rhode Island in February, 2015 as Raimondo’s nominee to run BHDDH.
This article has been updated.