Governor Gina Raimondo announced her intention to nominate Maria Montanaro as the director of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH). Raimondo will submit Montanaro’s name for consideration to the Rhode Island State Senate in January for confirmation.
“One of our priorities is fostering innovation in state government. It is widely known that there are several challenges facing BHDDH that are holding us back from providing families with the safe, quality care they deserve,” Raimondo said. “Maria has spent her career finding ways to improve services and outcomes for families. She will be an excellent addition to our health and human services team.”
“It is great to welcome Maria back to our state as we begin to roll up our sleeves on how to improve our delivery systems across all agencies to make sure we are providing the best care, while reassessing our cost structures and contracts,” Elizabeth Roberts, the nominee for the Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. “Maria’s dedication to our state’s families will be a tremendous asset as we move forward.”
“I am excited to return to Rhode Island to take on this opportunity to reimagine the way we deliver care and empower some of our state’s most vulnerable residents,” Montanaro said. “I look forward to working with the dedicated BHDDH team to make the agency stronger.”
Montanaro is leaving her post as the chief executive officer of Magellan Behavioral Care of Iowa, and will be joining BHDDH starting on February 2. During her time with Magellan, she has managed over $330 million in Medicaid services for 450,000 recipients for the state of Iowa.
Montanaro has a track record of successfully leading innovation and transformation. Prior to leaving Rhode Island for Iowa in 2012, she worked as a senior advisor for integrated health management services at Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Rhode Island. She was also the chief executive officer of Thundermist Health Center from 1997 to 2011. When Ms. Montanaro arrived at Thundermist, it employed 75 staff members with a budget at $5 million and was the primary care and dental home to almost 8,000 patients in Woonsocket. Through her vision, strategic planning, and leadership, Thundermist is now a statewide organization (serving Woonsocket, West Warwick, and South County) with over 250 employees, serving 30,000 patients statewide and an annual budget of $23 million.
Rebecca Boss will continue to serve as Acting Director of BHDDH until February 2, 2015.
The announcement was greeted warmly by Susan Jacobsen, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island, which backs improvements in what many advocates describe as a public mental-health system that is in crisis.
“Ms. Montanaro is a seasoned health-care leader,” Jacobsen said. “She has demonstrated longtime commitment to the most vulnerable Rhode Islanders, building Thundermist into a health center accessible to all, but where any Rhode Islander would receive first-class care. The Mental Health Association of Rhode Island looks forward to working with Maria Montanaro in her new role.”
Montanaro has a Masters of Social Work from the University of Illinois and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.