PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Gina M. Raimondo today announced veteran social services leader Womazetta Jones as her nominee for Secretary of the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS). Jones has nearly 30 years of hands-on human services experience and is currently the Director of Social Services for Ramsey County, Minnesota.
"Throughout her career Womazetta has advocated for and led the types of transformational health and human services efforts that create opportunities and improve quality of life for all people. There's no question she will be an asset to Rhode Island," said Governor Raimondo. "Over the past few years we've laid a strong foundation at EOHHS as we've expanded access to high-quality health care, reduced the number of overdose deaths and undertaken important reform efforts at DCYF. Womazetta understands the critical role EOHHS plays in continuing this work to meet the comprehensive needs of individuals and families."
Governor Raimondo will introduce Jones at a press conference on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Providence Community Health Center, 355 Prairie Avenue, Providence.
Jones started her career as a child welfare specialist at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in 1991, and worked her way up to Deputy Bureau Chief, a position that was responsible for child protection practice across Illinois. In 2013, she joined the Social Services Department of Ramsey County, as Division Director of Children and Family Services. In 2016, she was named Director of the Department, which provides protection and support services for children and adults, including services around disabilities, mental health, substance abuse disorders, child protection, foster care and child care licensing, and adoptions.
"As a social services professional, I am thrilled to have an opportunity to help shape a statewide system to not only offer high-quality services but deliver them in a manner respectful of cultural and economic diversity. It's only through such efforts that we can eliminate disparities and achieve outcome equality," said Jones.
Jones added that she is excited to help drive Rhode Island's ongoing transition to a health and human service network that looks holistically at an individual's needs.
"True success is about providing comprehensive lifelong health and well-being, not just addressing a particular circumstance at a moment in time. For example, substance use disorder is not simply about providing addiction treatment. A truly comprehensive system considers an individual's mental health needs, ability to be employed and how this disorder may impact his or her family, among other areas," Jones explained.
Jones was selected as Governor Raimondo's nominee following a national search. Community leaders who served on the search committee pointed to Jones' proven leadership and commitment to improving services to those in greatest need.
"Womazetta Jones' passion and insight into how best to support vulnerable families will be a tremendous asset to Rhode Island. She values health and human service collaborations and has built a reputation for bringing everyone – providers, consumers, advocates, and insurers – to the table to solve common problems," said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.
Kim Keck, president and CEO of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, added, "Womazetta Jones' ability to provide thoughtful strategy and promote collaboration will inform and inspire a sector undergoing significant change. From the transition to a value-based care model from one focused on fee-for-service to the ever-changing needs of our underserved populations, I am confident that Womazetta's leadership and passion will effect positive outcomes that benefit all Rhode Islanders."
Jones' first day is tentatively planned for July 22. Her confirmation is subject to the Senate's advice and consent process.
She will replace Lisa Vura-Weis, who has served as EOHHS' Acting Secretary since December when Secretary Eric Beane stepped down. Vura-Weis will return to the Governor's office as Senior Deputy Chief of Staff.
EOHHS is responsible for administering the State's Medicaid program and managing the Department of Health; Department of Children, Youth and Families; Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals; and Department of Human Services, including the Office of Veterans Affairs and Division of Elderly Affairs. These agencies provide services to more than 300,000 Rhode Islanders, a third of the state's population.