The state's departments of Human Services and Health are getting new directors.
Sort of.Staffers in Human Services were told Wednesday that Robin Arnold-Williams, deputy director, has been named director of the Department of Human Services by Gov. Mike Leavitt.
Richard Melton, deputy director of the Utah Department of Health, has been promoted to director. He went to work for the department nearly eight years ago, after an 11 year stint as director of Laboratory Services in the South Dakota Department of Health.
But they're not replacing the old director, Rod Betit, who was originally director of the Health Department and was given charge of Human Services, as well, a year ago. Instead, Betit is being called "executive director" of the two departments, which remain separate entities. And Arnold-Williams and Melton will still be accountable to him, according to Vicki Varela, spokeswoman for the governor's office. But they will oversee the day-to-day operations of their respective departments and make ongoing decisions with autonomy.
Betit will focus primarily on the state's reform efforts, from Medicaid reform to transferring welfare programs from Human Services over to the newly formed Department of Workforce Development.
Although he quips that this is the first time he's talked himself out of two jobs, the move frees him up to focus almost exclusively at first on the state's embattled child-welfare system.
"The highest priority of the governor right now is restructuring child welfare. Now Rod can be fully focused on that absolute priority," said Varela.
The governor said Wednesday that child welfare would take Betit's undivided attention for a while. "We have worked vigorously since the day I took office to better protect at-risk children, and this assignment helps us to move more quickly toward that goal," Leavitt said. "Much has been done, but much remains to be done."
Betit and Division of Child and Family Services Director Mary Noonan are launching a number of new initiatives to improve the child-welfare system, which is still locked in a court battle over how well it protects children in its care.
Arnold-Williams, who has a doctorate of social work, has been with the department since 1988. Before becoming deputy director, she directed the Division of Aging and Adult Services.