OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA. (August 28, 2019)— Governor Kevin Stitt today announced Tom Bates will lead a new initiative by the Governor’s office titled “Front Porch” to better integrate services provided by Oklahoma’s state health and human services agencies.
“As I’ve looked at how we serve Oklahomans, I’ve seen how hard we’ve made it for them to engage with us,” said Tom Bates. “Around the state, we make Oklahomans go to multiple offices and multiple web sites just to get the services they are entitled to, and it’s all very confusing. We’ve got to stop giving people the runaround. It’s not how you’d run a business, and it’s not how we should run state government. Moving to a more integrated, customer-centric approach will be transformative for our state.”
As part of “Front Porch,” Bates will be developing a plan to simplify and streamline the ways Oklahomans interact with health and human services agencies by working with the Governor’s cabinet and the directors of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the Department of Health, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Department of Human Services, and the Office of Juvenile Affairs, among others.
Bates will continue to serve as Interim Commissioner at the State Department of Health until a new Commissioner is appointed in the coming days. At which point, Bates will move into a full time leadership role for the special initiative, operating out of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.
“Tom has done a tremendous job stabilizing and improving performance in the Health Department, and his prior experience in DHS and the AG’s office uniquely qualifies him to help us better coordinate across our major health and human services agencies. He is the right person for this new role,” Stitt said.
“I can’t wait to start working with Tom on this Governor’s initiative. It will change the lives of Oklahomans for the better. Tom is smart, knowledgeable, humble, and collaborative, and he knows how to get things done,” said John Budd, Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the Governor.
Bates joined the Department of Health after accounting challenges led to an unnecessary $30 million dollar supplemental appropriation, which was returned to the legislature this year in the FY20 budgeting process. In his 17 months at the agency, Bates worked to rebuild the agency’s trust with legislators and other stakeholders in the face of the accounting challenge, while also realigning the organization to provide more focus on healthcare outcomes and develop the state’s approach to managing its medical marijuana program.