Montana’s new Republican governor, Greg Gianforte, has named a new leader to run the state’s largest agency, the Department of Public Health and Human Services, which among other things oversees child welfare and family services.
Gianforte, a Donald Trump supporter who turned the governor’s seat red in November when he defeated a Democrat to replace Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, nominated Adam Meier this week.
Meier served as secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Human Services from May 2018 through December 2019 when that state was under a Republican administration. He had also been that governor’s deputy chief of staff. After Kentuckians elected a Democrat as governor in 2019, Meier joined a Kentucky policy consultancy as a senior partner.
After Gianforte was elected governor, the former congressman said he was looking for a public health agency leader capable of bringing greater accountability, efficiency and transparency to the agency, which he has often criticized for having too many children in the foster care system. The number of youth in the state’s care has skyrocketed since 2010, from 1,723 up to a peak of 3,922 in 2018, according to federal statistics.
The state told The Imprint as part of our Who Cares capacity reporting project that as of March 31, 2020, the total was 3,522. Numbers reported for the project also show that the state had about 300 fewer licensed foster homes than it did in 2019.
Meier, Gianforte said in a statement this week, fits the bill for the job because of his record as a “change agent.”
“As Montana continues to confront the pandemic and the epidemic of addiction and drug use, an innovative, solutions-oriented Department of Public Health and Human Services has never been more important,” Gianforte said.
While serving in Kentucky, a federal judge twice rejected Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s efforts to add work requirements and other tough rules on “able-bodied” adults covered by Medicaid. Meier called the second ruling illogical, the Courier-Journal reported.
Assuming he is confirmed by the state Senate, Meier will administer programs that include public assistance, Medicaid, foster care and adoption, nursing home licensing, long-term care, substance abuse reduction, mental health services, child support enforcement and public health, among others.
DPHHS accounts for about 42% of the state spending plan, according to the Great Falls Tribune, making it the largest agency in the Big Sky state.
Meier said he was “humbled and honored” by the nomination and pledged to “work to build a more cohesive and effective health and human services ecosystem and improve outcomes for Montana’s most vulnerable citizens.”