Wolf wants acting heads of four agencies to serve permanently
Gov. Tom Wolf has nominated the acting heads of four state agencies to serve permanently in their respective roles.
The appointments of acting Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, acting Secretary of Human Services Teresa Miller, acting Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs Jennifer Smith and acting Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman are pending approval by the Pennsylvania Senate.
"Each of these leaders, in their respective agencies, is dedicated to furthering the goals of their departments, working together as a team on many initiatives with the shared goal of serving and protecting Pennsylvanians," Wolf said Thursday.
The moves come as Wolf has been working to reorganize and consolidate key state agencies.
Levine, in addition to serving as acting Secretary of Health since June, also serves as the state’s physician general, and is a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine.
As physician general, Dr. Levine has made significant strides combating the opioid epidemic and advocating on behalf of the LGBTQ population. She spearheaded efforts to establish opioid prescribing guidelines and establish opioid prescribing education for medical students.
Her previous posts included vice chair for Clinical Affairs for the Department of Pediatrics and chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital-Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
Miller assumed the role of acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services in August.
Previously, she served as Pennsylvania’s insurance commissioner, since January 2015, where she worked on a range of issues, including the administration’s top priorities – fighting the heroin and opioid epidemic and helping seniors.
One of her top priorities at the Insurance Department was enforcing mental health parity laws, ensuring consumers have access to the mental health and substance use disorder treatments they need.
Prior to coming to Pennsylvania, Miller served as acting director of the State Exchanges Group, the Oversight Group, and the Insurance Programs Group in the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Washington, D.C.
Drug and Alcohol Programs
Smith was appointed acting Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs, or DDAP, in January. Previously she served as deputy secretary.
Smith began her career with the commonwealth in 2004 in the Office of the Budget, beginning as an accountant and eventually becoming the office’s director of planning and management in 2012 before beginning as DDAP’s deputy secretary in 2015.
Since assuming the role of acting secretary, Smith has continued the Wolf administration’s initiative to increase drug take-back opportunities, expand access to naloxone in communities around Pennsylvania, and, alongside the Pennsylvania Department of Health, released guidelines and protocols for "warm handoffs" that help overdose survivors transition into substance use disorder treatment.
Altman was appointed acting insurance commissioner in August.
Previously, she served as chief of staff for the Pennsylvania Insurance Department alongside former Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller, beginning in June 2015. In that role, Altman served as the top aide to Miller, oversaw policy initiatives for the agency, and coordinated policy with other state government agencies and external groups.
Altman represented the department in a number of statewide initiatives, including coordinating aspects of Health Innovation in Pennsylvania, which leverages funds from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and sitting as a board member for ABC-MAP, the commonwealth’s initiative to implement a prescription drug monitoring program.
Prior to joining the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, Altman worked at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, where she developed policy and facilitated implementation of the Affordable Care Act. In addition, she served as a policy analyst for the health division of the White House Office of Management and Budget while completing her master’s degree.