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After Director's Resignation, More Leadership Changes At OHA

<p>The Oregon State Office Building in Portland, located in the Lloyd District, houses the state agency that handles chronic disease. The building overlooks the Pearl District, one of the healthiest parts of the state.&nbsp;</p>

Laura Klinkner

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The Oregon State Office Building in Portland, located in the Lloyd District, houses the state agency that handles chronic disease. The building overlooks the Pearl District, one of the healthiest parts of the state. 

The Oregon Health Authority underwent a shift in upper leadership after newspaper reports uncovered a communications plan to discredit a Portland healthcare provider.

Gov. Kate Brown called for and received the resignation of former director Lynne Saxton. Patrick Allen, the current director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, was appointed to temporarily replace her.

But according to an email Allen sent to OHA staff Wednesday, more changes are coming at the state's beleaguered health department. 

The agency is losing the current directors of its health systems and external relations divisions and its director of operations and finance.

It's unclear whether those departures are directly related to the controversial communications plan, part of an ongoing fight between state officials and the nonprofit health care provider FamilyCare. The Lund Report reported that BethAnne Darby, the communications director on her way out, worked "hand in hand" with Saxton.

Together those positions are responsible for Oregon's Medicaid and behavioral health programs, consumer complaints, communications with state and federal policymakers and administrative expenses.

The Health Systems Division will have an acting director while it takes time to "evaluate the best organizational structure for delivering effective Medicaid and behavioral health programs..." Then it will recruit for a long term replacement. Acting directors for the external relations and health policy and analytics director positions have been appointed. 

The health authority has hired Laura Robison as CFO. She's currently the administrator of the division of financial regulation at the Department of Consumer and Business Services. Kristine Kautz, the current deputy director of the Oregon Department of Revenue, was appointed as COO.

Most changes will be effective Sept. 1.

"This is a time of great uncertainty in health care," Allen wrote state staff in the email. "It’s also a time that demands greater openness, collaboration, and innovation."

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Ericka Cruz Guevarra