Susan Dreyfus, who has led the Washington Department of Social and Health Services through two tumultuous years of budget reductions, will step down at the end of the year to lead a national nonprofit social services organization.
Dreyfus will become CEO of the Milwaukee-based Families International Inc., the organization she worked for before being named by Gov. Chris Gregoire to head Washington’s largest department in May 2009.
“Her departure is a loss to our state and to my team, who have come to rely on her insight and constant drive,” Gregoire said. “I understand and respect her personal and professional decision to return home to Wisconsin and continue her work at the national level and am glad she will remain through the special legislative session to tackle yet another unimaginable challenge.”
In two years, Dreyfus said, she has implemented $2.2 billion in cuts from DSHS and reduced the department’s workforce by 14 percent as the state faced declining revenues.
“We have done all this at a time of increasing caseloads,” Dreyfus said. “This economic recession is having a real impact on this state’s budget and what it is that our state government is able to provide its citizens.”
Before she leaves at the end of the special legislative session, which begins Nov. 28, Dreyfus expects to see another $900,000 in state and federal cuts from the department that currently has an $11 billion budget for the next two years.
“This agency will have to take further reductions, and we will do our best to make sure the cuts have the least impact possible,” Dreyfus said.
However, she does not believe that lawmakers will take advantage of her lame-duck status to impose more cuts than are absolutely necessary.
“I have worked hard to build credibility with the legislators on both sides of the aisle and with the stakeholder community,” Dreyfus said. “I work my heart out for the mission of this place, and that will not change over the next couple of months.”
Gregoire appointed Dreyfus DSHS secretary in May 2009. She came to Washington from Wisconsin, where she served as senior vice president and chief operating officer for the Alliance for Children and Families, part of Families International. Now she will replace the parent organization’s CEO and her personal friend, Peter Goldberg, who died in August.
In 1996, she became the first administrator for the Wisconsin Division of Children and Family Services.
Soon after coming to DSHS in 2009, Dreyfus personally handled the fallout from a 2009 incident in which a criminally committed patient of Eastern State Hospital walked away from a field trip to the Spokane County Interstate Fair.
Dreyfus appeared at a news conference at the Medical Lake facility in which she announced an investigation into the escape of Phillip Paul, who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1987 killing of a 78-year-old Sunnyside, Wash., woman. Last year, Dreyfus returned to Medical Lake to announce reforms stemming from the investigation.