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Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals | Kathy Kliebert, Secretary

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DHH Announces New Interim Assistant Secretaries for the Offices of Behavioral Health and the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities

Friday, October 18, 2013  |  Contact: Media & Communications: Phone: 225.342.1532, E-mail: dhhinfo@la.gov

Baton Rouge, La.—The Department of Health and Hospitals announced today the appointment of two new interim assistant secretaries. Dr. Rochelle Head-Dunham will serve as Interim Assistant Secretary for the Office of Behavioral Health and Mark Thomas will assume the role of Interim Assistant Secretary for the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities.  Searches will be conducted to fill both roles permanently by early 2014.

“We are at a critical juncture for transforming health care delivery in Louisiana, particularly for behavioral health services and in how we care for citizens with developmental disabilities,” said DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert. “I am thrilled that Dr. Head-Dunham and Mark Thomas are stepping up to lead OBH and OCDD. Both have already demonstrated leadership in their time within the Department, playing key roles in the transformation of our health care system in Louisiana. They will both continue the essential work being done to increase access to services and improve the outcomes of patients.”

Dr. Head-Dunham, who currently serves as the Medical Director and Chief of Adult Operations for the Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) will assume the role of Interim Assistant Secretary on October 30, 2013, following the retirement of Assistant Secretary Dr. Anthony Speier. Dr. Speier is leaving the Department after more than 30 years of public service during which time he lead the Department’s efforts to transform the state’s public mental health and addictive disorders service system. 

As Interim Assistant Secretary of OBH, Dr. Head-Dunham will be responsible for directing the development of short- and long-term goals and objectives, as well as program operations that will result in the delivery of quality mental health and addiction services. This includes oversight and management of the Louisiana Behavioral Health Partnership, and the operation of community services and public psychiatric facilities throughout the state.

Mark Thomas has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities since 2009. He will assume responsibilities as Interim Assistant Secretary on November 2. Dr. Laura Brackin, the current Assistant Secretary for OCDD, has played a critical role in transforming the model for delivery and coordination of care for individuals with developmental disabilities. She leaves the Department to spend more time with her family.

As Interim Assistant Secretary of OCDD, Mark Thomas will be responsible for developing and implementing policy and procedure for Louisiana's developmental disabilities services system. He will provide leadership and direction to statewide public and private agencies that support people with developmental disabilities in accordance with the mission and vision of the Office.

“I am sad to lose the incredible knowledge and passion of both Dr. Speier and Dr. Brackin,” said Secretary Kliebert. “Tony’s dedication and thoughtful work to transform behavioral health in Louisiana will be difficult to match. It is not an accident that he was honored last year by the Civil Service Dunbar Award; he is truly an example of a public servant dedicated to improving the lives of those he serves. Dr. Brackin is an innovator who did not shy away from finding new ways to approach how we deliver care. She was able to successfully implement major transformational objectives during her tenure.” 

About Dr. Rochelle Head-Dunham

Dr. Rochelle Head-Dunham currently serves as the Medical Director and Chief of Adult Operations for the Office of Behavioral Health. A New Orleans native, Dr. Head-Dunham completed her Bachelors of Science at Xavier University and her MD at Tulane University School of Medicine. She has double board certifications in Adult Psychiatry and Addiction Psychiatry, which have advanced the skills, knowledge and application of standards of care in the treatment of co-occurring mental illness and addictive disorders for a broad array of providers and stakeholders, both statewide and nationally.

Dr. Head-Dunham operated a robust solo private practice in New Orleans for 15 years. She currently serves as the Louisiana Single State Agency Director for the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors. She also holds the position of the governor’s appointees to the Medicaid Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee, and to the HIV Commission. 

In addition to being the first fellow to complete the Tulane University School of Medicine’s Substance Abuse Fellowship in 1991, she has received numerous honors. In 2001, she was awarded the “Advancing the Profession Award” by the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse and was awarded Fellow status by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in 2002.

About Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas joined the Department as Executive Director of Community Services for the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities in 2006 and has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for OCDD since 2009.  Mr. Thomas completed a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Louisiana State University. 

Thomas delivered community-based disability services for 15 years for several non-profit organizations and consumer advocacy groups before joining state government, including Community Opportunities for East Ascension. As Executive Director of Community Opportunities for East Ascension, Thomas coordinated the successful implementation of a self-sustaining supported employment and supported-living programs for individuals with developmental disabilities. Thomas also held leadership roles in both state and national developmental disability provider and advocacy organizations and has received numerous awards and recognitions for his service.

During his time with DHH, Thomas has played critical roles in transforming waiver services, including through lowering costs in the New Opportunities Waiver and the addition of the Supports Waiver. He helped to oversee the transfer of waiver operations from the Department to the local governing entities throughout the state, increasing local control over essential supports and services.

Thomas will continue the effort of system transformation aimed at improving coordination of care, increasing access and finding real-time solutions for families served by the supports and services typically received through waivers. He will also be instrumental in assisting the movement to managed-long term care for long-term supports and services. 

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