The head of Oregon’s healthcare system has resigned after only two months on the job. As interim director of the Oregon Health Authority, James Schroeder has resigned this week.
“I have been honored to shepherd the agency during this transition,” Schroeder wrote in a Thursday resignation letter. “However, I have decided not to pursue the permanent director position. My family is the center of my life, and I recognize that the demands of this role are incompatible with the focus I want to give them.”
Schroeder has stated that he has no interest in remaining in his current role as director of the OHA permanently, and he may not even stick around until Governor Tina Kotek’s government finds a replacement. We’ll see him off on March 17th.
Health policy experts who followed the action in the Capitol were caught off guard by the departure. Schroeder acknowledged the surprise in an email to OHA employees on Friday morning.
“I know this news may come as some surprise,” he wrote. “However, I want you to know I am proud of your daily transformative work.”
James Schroeder Had Appointed Director by Tina Kotek
While Kotek has made it clear that fixing the state’s broken behavioral health care system is a top priority for her administration, Schroeder’s departure poses a severe threat to the agency she was leading.
It is unclear whether Kotek will be able to find a new director within the next two weeks, even though the governor’s office indicated in a release that it will initiate a national search for a new head beginning on Friday. In an email to OHA employees, Governor Cooper’s chief of staff, Andrea Cooper, said the governor’s office would soon announce a new interim director and involve OHA employees in the search for a permanent leader.
Kotek’s spokeswoman, Elisabeth Shepard, stated that Kotek did not ask for Schroeder’s resignation. The governor issued a public declaration of appreciation to Schroeder for his efforts.
“Improving access to mental health and addiction services remains a top priority for my administration, and I’m looking forward to bringing on a permanent director who will lead the agency in carrying that work forward,” Kotek said.
Oregon's new health director is resigning, after less than two months on the job. James Schroeder is out on March 17, leaving the massive Oregon Health Authority potentially without a leader. Gov. Tina Kotek's office says it will conduct a national search beginning today. #orpol
— Dirk VanderHart (@dirquez) March 3, 2023
Kotek appointed Schroeder to replace Patrick Allen as OHA director. Allen oversaw the agency during the chaotic years surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak. When Kotek was running for office, she made it clear she intended to get rid of Allen if she were to win. Instead of staying, he resigned and is now the head of the New Mexico Department of Health.
Schroeder brought with him a wealth of experience in the medical field. He had been running the largest Medicaid insurer in Oregon, Health Sharing of Oregon, before being recruited by Kotek.
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He takes over an organization with its share of problems, including a botched attempt to distribute funds associated with the state’s drug legalization referendum and ongoing staffing and capacity challenges at the Oregon State Hospital. To address these issues head-on, Kotek has hired Ebony Clarke to take on the behavioral health director role.
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