Governor Lamont Announces Plans To Appoint Andrea Barton Reeves as Commissioner of the Department of Social Services, Dr. Deidre Gifford as Executive Director of the Office of Health Strategy at Start of Second Term
Dr. Gifford Will Continue To Serve as Senior Advisor to the Governor for Health and Human Services
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that he is planning to appoint Andrea Barton Reeves as commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) and Dr. Deidre Gifford as executive director of the Connecticut Office of Health Strategy (OHS) when he begins his second term in office early next year.
Gifford is currently the commissioner of DSS and Barton Reeves is CEO of the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority. Gifford will fill the role of OHS executive director that was most recently held by Victoria Veltri, who stepped down from state service in June. Barton Reeves will fill the position at DSS that is being vacated by Gifford in her transition to OHS.
In addition to serving as OHS executive director, Governor Lamont will continue to task Gifford with the added role of serving as senior advisor to the governor for health and human services. In this position – which she first agreed to take on in July 2021 – she is responsible for organizing a multi-agency approach among the state’s nine health and human services agencies in a way that best improves health and healthcare outcomes for the state’s residents, and specifically works to ensure that any areas in which these agencies have overlapping responsibilities are optimally coordinated. She is also responsible for working closely with the Office of Policy and Management on these issues and providing the governor with policy recommendations that address health and healthcare costs, quality, and disparities.
“A well-coordinated, comprehensive approach to public health and healthcare access is vital to supporting the basic needs of the people of our state, and I am thrilled that we are assembling a team of the most dedicated, educated, and respected professionals in this field who will be able to hit the ground running as we begin our second term,” Governor Lamont said. “Throughout our first term, I depended on Dr. Deidre Gifford’s advice to guide our initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I firmly believe that she is one of the reasons why many people consider Connecticut’s response to this global virus to be among the best. The many years of experience that Andrea Barton Reeves has working directly for Connecticut’s nonprofit community makes her intimately familiar with the needs of the population that are served by the Department of Social Services. Andrea has done a remarkable job overseeing the Connecticut Paid Family Leave Authority as this program launched and began distributing critical benefits to the working people of our state. I appreciate them both for agreeing to take on these critical leadership roles in our administration. I also extend my gratitude to Kimberly Martone, who stepped up to lead the Office of Health Strategy over the last several months during this interim period and helped ensure that the agency continued its mission of achieving affordable, accessible, and equitable healthcare.”
Prior to leading the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority, Barton Reeves served from 2013 to 2020 as president and CEO of Harc Inc, a large nonprofit organization in Hartford that provides services for people with intellectual and related disabilities and families. During her tenure, she transformed Harc’s operating model, created new revenue streams, and enhanced technology systems. She also previously served as director of program operations at Lawyers for Children America, Inc., and worked in the insurance industry at Chubb.
Barton Reeves has also been involved with several community organizations, including serving as president of the Connecticut Bar Foundation, board chair at the Village for Families and Children, and as board member of the Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance and Leadership Greater Hartford.
She has earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Rutgers University and a Juris Doctorate from New York Law School.
“I am honored to have been selected by Governor Lamont to lead the Department of Social Services and I am grateful for this opportunity,” Barton Reeves said. “It has been my pleasure to work with an extraordinary team of people to make paid family and medical leave a reality for Connecticut’s workers. I look forward to continuing to serve the governor and the people of Connecticut in an even larger capacity. I also must thank Commissioner Gifford, who has been a stellar leader during one of the most challenging times our state has faced, and I am humbled to be following her as the next commissioner of DSS.”
Gifford has been serving as DSS commissioner since Governor Lamont appointed her to the position shortly after beginning his first term in early 2019. From May 2020 until September 2021 – amid the initial outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic – Gifford agreed to take on the added responsibility of serving as acting commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, and thus becoming Governor Lamont’s top advisor on the pandemic. In this capacity, she served a significant role for the Lamont administration in overseeing the state’s COVID-19 response, including over the initial rollout of the vaccines.
Prior to joining Connecticut state government, Gifford served from 2016 to 2019 as deputy director for the Center of Medicaid and CHIP Services at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Washington, DC, where she oversaw the full scope of Medicaid functions at the federal agency. From 2012 to 2015, she served as Medicaid director in the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and from 2005 to 2011 she was co-founder and project director of Rhode Island’s multi-payer Medical Home demonstration, one of the nation’s first and most enduring multi-payer payment reform initiatives.
She has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in public health from UCLA; an M.D. from Cornell University Medical College in New York; and completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology and received an M.P.H. in epidemiology at UCLA. Over the course of her career, she has held faculty appointments at the UCLA and Brown Schools of Public Health.
“I want to congratulate Andrea Barton Reeves on her appointment as DSS commissioner, and I am looking forward to working with her in the upcoming term,” Gifford said. “She joins an incredibly talented group of commissioners and I know the team at DSS will benefit from her experience and talents. My time at DSS over the last three years has been among the most rewarding of my career. The department is staffed by a dedicated and hard-working team, who work every day to provide benefits and services to residents of Connecticut, and it has been my honor to lead them. At the same time, I am excited to take on the challenge of leading the Office of Health Strategy and continuing to build on the important work begun there by my predecessor. While Connecticut enjoys a high-quality healthcare system, we are faced with cost and affordability challenges that must be addressed. Our health outcomes differ based on race, ethnicity, and income, and there is a lot of work before us to ensure an affordable, accessible, and equitable system that works for every resident. The governor has asked me to coordinate his health policy agenda, and the Office of Health Strategy, with its broad mandate to address cost, quality, and access, is the ideal position from which to lead that work. I am grateful to Governor Lamont for the opportunity.”
DSS is the state agency responsible for administering a wide range of services that support the basic needs of children, families, persons with disabilities, and older adults, particularly regarding food security, economic aid, healthcare coverage, independent living and home care, social work, child support, home-heating aid, and protective services for older adults. Some of the largest programs that it oversees include HUSKY Health (the state’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (formerly known as food stamps), and the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (the state’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program).
Created in 2018, OHS is one of Connecticut’s newest state agencies. It is responsible for implementing data-driven strategies that promote equal access to healthcare, improve the value of healthcare, contain costs, and ensure better healthcare systems for the state’s residents. It was established as part of a consolidation effort that brought several existing resources from various state agencies into one centralized location so that these efforts could function more cohesively and efficiently.
Connecticut’s nine health and human services agencies include:
- Department of Aging and Disability Services
- Department of Children and Families
- Department of Developmental Services
- Office of Early Childhood
- Office of Health Strategy
- Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services
- Department of Public Health
- Department of Social Services
- Department of Veterans Affairs
Governor Lamont is set to receive the oath of office and begin his second term on January 4, 2023. At that time, Barton Reeves’s nomination as DSS commissioner and Gifford’s nomination as OHS executive director will be forwarded to the General Assembly for its consideration.