After one health cabinet official's departure, lawmakers wonder if Sec. Janie Miller is next

12/06/2011 05:37 PM

Past administrations have had a better track record with making public data and reports about children under the state’s supervision, key lawmakers said.

And that has legislators to wonder whether the state’s health and family services cabinet needs a change at the top.

State Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, and Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, said the cabinet must improve its transparency in the wake the handling of a death of a 9-year-old girl in Todd County as well as the cabinet’s failure to release a report on child deaths on Sept. 1 as required by law.

On Friday, Patricia Wilson tendered her resignation as commissioner of the cabinet’s department of community based services, which oversees social workers, as first reported by the Herald-Leader’s Jack Brammer and later by the Courier-Journal’s Debbie Yetter. A cabinet spokeswoman told Pure Politics on Tuesday that Wilson left for “personal reasons.”

Denton told more than 60 child advocates at the Louisville Step Up for Kids Day forum hosted by the Kentucky Youth Advocates that the cabinet might need more of a leadership change. And she said she had heard Miller could leave the Beshear administration by the end of the year.

A cabinet spokeswoman said rumblings of Miller’s imminent departure are merely speculation.

“The rumor is just that,” said cabinet spokeswoman Gwenda Bond in a statement. “Secretary Miller has not resigned and is busy with the implementation of Medicaid Managed Care, executing the governor’s new policy of releasing records of child fatalities and other pressing business of the cabinet.”

Denton said she ultimately would like to see the cabinet — which oversees the multi-billion dollar Medicaid program as well as mental and behavioral health programs, public health departments and social workers — hire a cabinet secretary on a contract that would pay more than the current pay of $125,332-a-year.

Two cabinet secretaries under former Gov. Ernie Fletcher were paid through contracts via the University of Kentucky, where they both worked before joining Fletcher’s administration.

Lee, who chairs the House budget panel for the health and human services, said he agreed that the cabinet could use a more lucrative contract to lure expert health managers, as well.

Wilson, whose last day as commissioner of the department of community based services is Dec. 19, turned in a two-paragraph resignation letter that did not detail her reasons for leaving the cabinet.

“The work of the department is important to the lives of many citizens of the commonwealth,” she wrote. “I leave an agency that is stronger in practice, more consistent in performance and attuned to the principles undergirding human services. I wish the department success in its endeavors.”


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