Outgoing Oklahoma Department of Human Services Director Ed Lake gets our sincere appreciation for his work on behalf of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
Gov. Kevin Stitt announced this week he was replacing Lake with Justin Brown, CEO of Oklahoma City-based Choice Capital Partners.
The move is in line with the governor’s pattern of recruiting successful private industry professionals into public service.
As one of the largest state agencies, DHS acts as an umbrella to many safety-net programs for at-risk Oklahomans. These programs make the difference on whether a family can eat, an elderly person remain in a home, a single mother receive child support, child-care facilities undergo inspections or a child can live without fear of abuse.
DHS saves lives.
It’s a sprawling set of critical duties that Lake effectively handled. In times of extremely tight budgets, he made real progress for people in need.
He took over the agency on Nov. 1, 2012, just after the settlement of a federal class-action lawsuit prompting an ambitious foster-care improvement plan known as the Pinnacle Plan.
Coming from a social work background, Lake understood the bureaucratic infrastructure necessary for human services programs. Still, he used business models to save more than $13 million from inefficiencies.
He fought for the child welfare division to move forward in the Pinnacle Plan goals. Court monitors of the plan found “good faith” ratings in 29 of 31 areas in their last report.
Lake made the hard, but right, decision to close two state-operated institutions for people with intellectual disabilities and emergency children’s shelters in favor of home-based settings.
He increased partnerships with faith-based communities and created a tribal liaison position.
We thank him for his service and wish him well.
Brown has a steep learning curve. His expertise is in financial transactions and acquisitions in health care. He does not have social work experience.
Often, people who have never worked with DHS assume it can do things it cannot. The complex $2.3 billion budget is actually about 12 different budgets of federal dollars matched to state allocations for specific purposes.
DHS is a crucial front-line agency, and we look forward to hearing more of Brown’s vision to continue protecting Oklahomans in need of support.