Raimondo taps Beane, Hawkins for top human services posts

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Friday she is nominating Eric Beane to be secretary of the R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services and Courtney Hawkins to run the Department of Human Services.

Both Beane and Hawkins must be confirmed by the Senate.

“Rhode Islanders deserve and demand high-quality public services,” Raimondo said in a statement. “I am confident that the new leadership for our health cabinet will ensure better access to care and better outcomes for Rhode Islanders.”

Raimondo credited Beane, who has served as acting DHS director since January, with putting the problem-plagued Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) computer system “on a path toward stability.”

Beane succeeds Elizabeth Roberts, who resigned in February over the botched launch of the new computer system.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve Governor Raimondo and the citizens of Rhode Island in this new position,” Beane said. “I look forward to continuing to partner with OHHS staff and the administration’s leadership as we seek to ensure access to high quality, affordable services that foster the health, safety and independence of all Rhode Islanders.”

Hawkins is leaving her post as Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s director of policy. The mayor’s office quickly sent a press release praising Hawkins and announced Kate Sabatini would be the city’s new chief of policy and a senior advisor to Elorza. Sabatini currently works in Providence’s law department.

A University of Rhode Island graduate who earned a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University, Hawkins came to City Hall to serve as the executive director of the innovative Providence Talks program, which aims to close the so-called “word gap” between poor and more affluent children.

She became the mayor’s policy chief last summer and was quickly labeled one of the most talented members of Elorza’s senior staff. She played a central role in managing negotiations of the proposed Community Safety Act from the mayor’s side and became the city leading spokesperson on complicated policy matters, including Elorza’s plan to generate revenue from the water supply.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to join the Raimondo administration in service of helping others in my home state,” Hawkins said. “I plan to bring an efficient, person-centered approach to the Department of Human Services with the goal of making an impact in the lives of those in need of our services.”

Hawkins succeeds Melba Depena Affigne, who also resigned over UHIP.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan