Gov.-elect Charlie Baker is choosing someone he worked with in the Weld administration to lead the largest agency in the state — the Department of Health and Human Services. Baker said Friday he tapped Marylou Sudders for the post in part because of her collaborative spirit.
Several groups are praising his choice, citing Sudders’ work as the former state mental health commissioner and former head of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
WBUR’s Deborah Becker spoke with Sudders and started by asking her why she wants to take over an agency facing several challenges. Their lightly edited conversation is below.
Marylou Sudders: I’m a public servant at heart. In many ways I feel like my entire professional career has been preparing me for a position such as secretary of Health and Human Services. I believe in the tremendous opportunities in the commonwealth. I’ve never shied away from challenges and I have tremendous faith in really good people fixing these problems.
Deborah Becker: Let’s talk about some of those problems, some of which were raised in a recent survey from the National Alliance for Mental Illness. They want to know what the Baker administration will do about hospital emergency rooms holding patients with a mental illness because they can’t find beds in treatment facilities, or over incarcerating folks with mental illness. Are those your priorities?
These are issues I’m very familiar with. I have every confidence that this administration will be looking at the full health needs, and health will be defined as both the physical and behavioral health needs in this administration.
With the many challenges in this field, what do you hope to accomplish?