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STATE OFFICIAL QUITS POST TO `RECHARGE'

Ric Zaharia, director of the Division of Services for People with Disabilities, has resigned, citing the need to "recharge my batteries."

Zaharia's resignation came just as Rod Betit, executive director of Human Services, was completing executive-level shuffling of personnel. But Betit said he is disappointed with Zaharia's decision to leave. No replacement has been named, and Zaharia will remain through August.During the shuffling, two offices were closed, and two office chiefs and a division director were fired. Betit disbanded the quality-control staff, saying that it's everyone's responsibility to assure quality. He plans to eliminate the Office of Liability Management. Its director, Jack Green, has already been appointed deputy director of the Division of Family Services. Green replaces Karin Stone Hobbs, who resigned last month because she said the division was spending so much time on paperwork it wasn't able to serve children. Betit replaced the director of the Division of Aging and Adult Services with Helen Goddard, a longtime expert on the topic. And he also terminated the director of Human Resources within the Department of Human Services.

For several months, department insiders and outsiders have studied the divisions, which together form one of the largest departments in state government. They noted weaknesses and strengths and recommended changes.

Betit took those reports to a round of meetings with division chiefs to discuss how each area would set up an action plan to correct deficits.

The first round of action plans was rejected, he said.

Betit's not the only one making changes. Division of Family Services director Mary Noonan has done away with "program specialists." Thirteen staffers were designated specialists, each of whom oversaw a small section of child welfare and family services. To streamline the division for increased efficiency, Noonan said, she is meeting with those specialists to "align strengths and weaknesses and make best-fit decisions."

Within a month, the realignment, which will include regional offices, will be complete. Workers will be reassigned or will have to find their own new assignments.

More changes are likely for Human Services.

There are long-range discussions about remaking the entire department, moving the family-support programs like welfare into a new department that would focus on job-training and employment.

Legislators have also toyed with the idea of combining the Substance Abuse, Aging and Adult Services and Mental Health divisions into one unit, since they all pass through funds for programs to county government, which provides the services.

Critics of the department are advocating creation of a children's department of some sort that would lump children's programs together.

Betit, who is also director of the Health Department, made a change, there, too. He combined the divisions of Community Health Services and Family Health Services and terminated the director of the former.