By Gina Macris
RI Governor Gina Raimondo has named Eric Beane, the top aide tasked with fixing the UHIP computer disaster, as Executive Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Courtney Hawkins, chief policy officer for Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, will become the new Director of the Department of Human Services (DHS). And Zach Sherman, Director of HealthSource RI, will take over the day-to-day management of the UHIP turnaround, according to a statement from Raimondo’s office issued May 12.
“Rhode islanders deserve and demand high-quality public services. I am confident the new leadership for our Health Cabinet will ensure better access to care and better outcomes for Rhode Islanders,” Raimondo said.
There has been a nearly complete turnover in the human services leadership since the start of the year, primarily because of problems with the UHIP computer system and with the management of the Department of Children, Youth and Families.
Beane has been with Raimondo since she took office in 2015, serving first as deputy chief of staff and then as chief operations officer, before the governor put him in charge of running DHS and turning around the $364-million Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) in January.
Hawkins, a Rhode Island native, “brings more than 15 years of experience working with social service agencies and in public policy” here and elsewhere, Raimondo said.
Hawkins has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University. Before returning to Rhode Island in 2015, she worked as senior vice president at the now-bankrupt FEGS Health and Human Services, one of the largest social service agencies in New York City. The agency closed its doors in 2015.
UHIP, the largest information technology project ever undertaken by the state, has delayed eligibility decisions and healthcare and social service benefits for tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders – including some with developmental disabilities - since it was launched in September, 2016.
The botched rollout also cost the jobs of former EOHHS Secretary Elizabeth Roberts, the state’s chief digital officer, Thom Guertin, and the former DHS director, Melba Depena Affigne.
In announcing the new appointments, Raimondo’s office said that Anya Radar Wallack, Acting Secretary of EOHHS since February, will return to the Brown University School of Public Health in June.
Beane is to start his new duties June 1 and Hawkins will take office June 12. Both appointments require confirmation by the state Senate.