Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tougher Times Ahead for DSHS

This has been a difficult last few years for the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and for the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), where many people with developmental disabilities turn to for state services that will help them live safely in their communities and lead productive lives. With the recession, budget cuts have reduced funding in many of the programs that people depend on. The latest budget proposals from DSHS/DDD (and the Health Care Authority) now would include the complete elimination of services for 41% of the entire DDD caseload, leaving people without needed prescription drugs, personal care assistance, residential and employment services, and many other vital services. (Learn more at

Now we learn, that in addition to the unsettled future of budget cuts, leadership within the agencies will be shaken up again. Read on for a letter of resignation from the Secretary of DSHS, Susan Dreyfus:

October 12, 2011

To: DSHS employees, members of the Cabinet, State legislators, Tribal leaders and our many Partners,


I joined you in leadership as Secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services in May of 2009. I said then that all paths had led me to the state of Washington and my ability to answer the call to serve Governor Gregoire and the citizens of this state. Together, we have been striving to lead change, stay focused on our values and priorities and to adapt with agility to the worst economic recession we have seen since the Great Depression. I am proud of the strategic work we have begun and have accomplished together. My life is forever blessed for the time I have spent with you in this most beautiful state. I am so appreciative of the support my husband and family have given me while I have lived far from our home in Wisconsin these past two and a half years.

I am writing to let you know that effective January 2, 2012, I have accepted the position as President and CEO of Milwaukee-based Families International, Inc. I will stay on the job here in Washington, working hard with you, through special session, which begins November 28.

Families International, Inc. is the nonprofit parent organization of three, national nonprofit organizations: Alliance for Children and Families, United Neighborhood Centers of America (UNCA), and Ways to Work; and one for-profit company, FEI Behavioral Health.

It is important to me that you understand the unique circumstances and timing that led me to accept this new challenge and opportunity now. I had every intention in serving the Governor and working with you until later next year before exploring what I might do after this administration. I was the Senior Vice President and COO of Families International, Inc., and the Alliance for Children and Families for almost five years, Peter Goldberg, the former President and CEO, hired me and became both a close friend and mentor to me over the years. Tragically, he died in August of this year and the Families International Board has extended me the honor of succeeding Peter and leading their outstanding organization into the future.

Families International, Inc., serves as the parent organization for three nonprofit organizations—the Alliance for Children and Families, United Neighborhood Centers of America, and Ways to Work—and one for-profit company, FEI Behavioral Health. These companies, headquartered in Wisconsin, work to strengthen the capacities of the nonprofit human services sector across America and to advocate on behalf of the sector and the people, neighborhoods and communities they serve. You all know that I have committed my life’s work to being a part of having a greater societal impact through partnering across sectors to reduce poverty, improve people’s health and improve their educational and employment success. This new position provides me with the ability to continue this commitment at a national level, and to rejoin my husband at our home in Wisconsin.

Over the next 60 days, we will have many opportunities to see one another and reflect on our work and accomplishments together, as well as the work that is yet to be done. However, right now, we have some very important work to do during special session to emerge from the impacts of this great recession and stay true to the values of our state. I look forward to working diligently with you through special session on these key issues.

I believe we are all stewards of the jobs we have and that they do not belong to us. Our job is to pave the way for those who will follow us and to leave our positions and organizations stronger and better aligned for the future. We have accomplished much together during this unprecedented time.

Again, it is truly an honor to join with you and the Governor in leadership, and my life is forever blessed for the time I have spent with you! We have much work to do and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Susan N. Dreyfus
Department of Social and Health Services