Oklahoma City -- The Oklahoma Commission for Human Services has announced that Terri White (link opens in new window) will serve as the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) interim director. The action is set to take effect March 1, 2012, and comes as the agency prepares to initiate a national search to replace Howard Hendrick, who recently announced his retirement. The Commission’s vote was unanimous.
White, commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), will remain in her current position and stressed that she will not accept the OKDHS director’s post permanently. She said she was happy, however, to help in any way possible to find the right person for the position. She is slated to serve as interim director until the search is completed, a process expected to conclude no later than June 30, 2012. OKDHS is Oklahoma’s largest state agency with more than 7,000 employees and a budget in excess of $2 billion.
“I am honored to have been asked to serve in this capacity,” said White. “This is an important time for OKDHS as the agency moves forward, and I am committed to doing all that I can to advance the department and ensure that transition to new leadership is a success.
“OKDHS and its staff play an incredibly important role in shaping Oklahoma. Our effort to take care of our most vulnerable citizens and afford them the opportunities for a better life is something that truly defines us as a state and as a people. My role will be to continue good work that is already underway, to help grow success and prepare this agency to flourish during this time of change.”
The Commission has moved swiftly to fill the interim role and is committed to finding an excellent candidate to fill the position permanently. Chairman Brad Yarborough says he is pleased to have confirmed White as interim leader of the agency. He is enthusiastic about the Commission’s decision and believes that her selection will be of tremendous benefit to the OKDHS during this time of change.
“Commissioner White is doing a remarkable job at ODMHSAS,” said Yarbrough. “That agency works closely with OKDHS and she is familiar with our operations and services. We join with other state leaders who feel that she is a perfect fit to move into this position during the short term and continue moving the agency forward in a positive direction.
“She provides the Commission with the confidence that operations will be well-managed so that we can aggressively focus on the search process.”
White said that the quality of services and the dedication of employees at ODMHSAS were instrumental to her appointment as interim director.
“We have experienced tremendous successes at ODMHSAS,” she said. “This appointment reflects positively on the entire department and the work we have been able to accomplish over the past several years.”
White will split time between the two agencies and plans to work with key staff to ensure that operations run smoothly.
Terri White was named ODMHSAS commissioner in May 2007 and has established herself as a passionate advocate for individuals experiencing mental illness and addiction. She has received national recognition for her role in advancing recovery and evidence based programs, technological innovations such as telepsychiatry and the integration of behavioral health care into primary healthcare settings.
She was the first woman to serve as Oklahoma’s Secretary of Health, for former Governor Brad Henry, from 2009 to 2011; and, is a three-time honoree of The Journal Record's Fifty Women Making a Difference.
As ODMHSAS commissioner, White oversees a statewide network of services dedicated to providing needed mental health and substance abuse services to all Oklahomans. Her agency has an annual budget of approximately $300 million, 1,800 employees and holds contractual relationships with over 100 private providers.
Read Terri White's full bio (link opens in new window).