Governor Picks New Head Of Idaho Health And Welfare

Jun 1, 2017

Idaho Governor Butch Otter announced Wednesday he has picked a new head of the state’s Health and Welfare Department.

Otter is appointing Russ Barron to head the agency. Barron is deputy director and a longtime administrator at Health and Welfare.

Current Director Richard Armstrong is stepping down after 11 years on the job. The Idaho Statesman reports Armstrong was appointed to the post by Governor Jim Risch in 2006 and reappointed by Otter when he took office in 2007.

Armstrong oversaw plenty of changes at the Department, including a re-vamp of the state’s food stamp program. He says the state missed an opportunity when the GOP-dominated Idaho Legislature refused to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. He says the state still needs to take action to help those estimated 78,000 without health insurance.

Armstrong steps down at the end of June. His replacement, Russ Barron, has been deputy director for three years and has worked for several departments at Health and Welfare. He’ll oversee close to 2,900 employees with a budget of $2.9 billion a year.

“It is an honor to be appointed to serve Governor Otter and the State of Idaho as the next director of the Department of Health and Welfare, whose mission is to promote and protect the health and safety of Idahoans,” Barron said. “The department has made great strides in delivering meaningful services efficiently and effectively under the direction of Dick Armstrong, and I’m looking forward to working with the department’s employees, partners and stakeholders to continue that success.”

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