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Gov. Gregoire announces appointment of new DSHS secretary

For Immediate Release: March 31, 2009

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today named Susan N. Dreyfus, a Wisconsin executive with more than a dozen years of leadership experience in both the private and public health sectors, to head Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services.

“Susan brings an outstanding record of accomplishment, particularly in the areas of child welfare and mental health services,” Gregoire said. “She has the knowledge, leadership experience and vision necessary to succeed in one of the most difficult jobs in state government. The demands placed upon the agency are enormous and expectations are high, a situation that will deepen in this recession. Susan is exceptionally qualified and ready to take the reins.”

Dreyfus will join the agency, and the governor’s Cabinet, on May 18. She will visit today with DSHS staff and leadership and later with key legislators and stakeholders.

DSHS is Washington’s largest state agency, with more than 19,000 employees and a combined state and federal two-year budget of about $20 billion. Each year, more than 2 million Washington residents turn to the agency for help. Its five divisions are responsible for an array of social services, including medical assistance, mental health services, vocational rehabilitation, food assistance, child welfare, care for the frail elderly and disabled adults, child support enforcement, juvenile rehabilitation, and alcohol and substance abuse prevention and treatment.

“Throughout my career, I have been committed to improving the lives of vulnerable children and adults and their families. In this economy, we are challenged to do more with less,” Dreyfus said. “Washington is known as an innovative state, and this is the time to look for opportunities to be more efficient and effective. I am very pleased to be joining the DSHS community to do just that.”

A Wisconsin resident for the past 33 years, Dreyfus, 51, is executive vice president for strategy with Rogers Behavioral Health System, Inc., in the Milwaukee area. Prior to joining Rogers in 2007, Dreyfus served for five years as senior vice president and chief operating officer of the National Alliance for Children and Families and Families International. With the Alliance, Dreyfus consulted with nonprofit human service agencies across the country on a range of governance, organizational and program areas, including child welfare practice, system design and management, contracting, policy, and state and federal financing.

Dreyfus also served on the Wisconsin State Legislative Council on Adoptions to develop ways to streamline adoptive processes and protect the rights of children and parents.

In 1996, Dreyfus was appointed administrator of the Division of Children and Family Services within the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services. For nearly seven years she led this office responsible for child welfare, regulation and licensing of child care facilities, youth development and other community programs. In this role, Dreyfus successfully led the state’s assumption of all child welfare responsibilities from Milwaukee County. She also championed a major redesign of physical and behavioral health services for children in out-of-home care provided by Medicaid.

“Susan is an energetic leader who will bring keen insight and creativity to the job,” said former state Supreme Court Justice Bobbe Bridge, who served on the selection committee. “Her experience in the public and private sectors on the variety of issues confronting the secretary will provide a welcome perspective in these challenging times.”

“Given the health care challenges facing our state, we must find innovative ways to ensure we help individuals and families in need and help people rebuild self-sufficient, healthy and secure lives,” said Pam MacEwan, executive vice president of Group Health Cooperative and who served on the selection committee. “I believe Susan’s strong health care background makes her the right person to lead DSHS through these challenges.”

“I enjoyed working with Susan. She is not afraid to roll up her sleeves, get her hands dirty and take on the difficult issues,” said Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24. WSEU is affiliated with the same international union that represents many DSHS employees.

Gregoire commended DSHS Interim Secretary Stan Marshburn, who has led the agency since January, when former Secretary Robin Arnold-Williams joined the Governor’s Office as director of Gregoire’s executive policy office.

“The agency continues to be in capable hands during this transition, thanks to Stan’s wealth of state government experience, including his fiscal expertise as DSHS chief financial officer,” Gregoire said.

Dreyfus is married with three adult children. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay and attended the Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Her annual salary is $163,056.