Raimondo picks Minn. official as new health secretary


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Tuesday she is nominating Womazetta Jones, a social services official in Minnesota, as Rhode Island’s new secretary of health and human services.

Jones’ appointment is subject to Senate confirmation. She would succeed Eric Beane, who served as secretary from mid-2017 through late 2018, overseeing the effort to turn around the problem-plagued UHIP computer system. (Lisa Vura-Weiss, one of Raimondo’s deputy chiefs of staff, has been serving as acting secretary.)

The secretary heads up the sprawling Executive Office of Health and Human Services, which oversees multiple state departments responsible for billions of dollars in annual spending on Medicaid and other social services. Jones was selected following a national search by a panel of community leaders.

“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,” Raimondo said in a statement. “There’s no question she will be an asset to Rhode Island.”

Jones has served since 2016 as director of social services for Minnesota’s Ramsey County, the second-largest county in the state, which is anchored by the capital, St. Paul.

A news release at the time of her appointment said she would be overseeing almost 680 employees who are “responsible for adult protection, child protection, mental and chemical health services, foster and child care licensing, senior and disability services and adoptions.”

Jones has worked for the county since 2013, and previously served in the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the news release said. She also worked for a time overseeing child protection at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

“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,” Jones said. “It’s only through such efforts that we can eliminate disparities and achieve outcome equality.”

The governor said she will introduce Jones to the public during a news conference Wednesday morning at the Providence Community Health Center. She is tentatively scheduled to start the job July 22 if confirmed.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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