NEW CASTLE (June 22, 2022) – Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Molly Magarik today announced five leadership changes for the agency involving the Office of the Secretary and the Division of Public Health.
Dava Newnam, who has served as Associate Deputy Cabinet Secretary and Chief Operating Officer for DHSS, has been named Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Special Populations, Strategic Planning and Innovation.
Newnam has served in various roles at DHSS for 27 years. In January 2021, she was named Associate Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer for the department, with responsibility for managing a $3 billion budget and 3,500 employees. During her tenure, she led the consolidation of business operations department-wide under the Office of the Secretary, including procurement, accounts payable, accounts receivable, grants administration and budget development and helped organize DHSS’ first employee Leadership Academy. In her previous role as Director of the Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities, she led more than 700 employees and was responsible for directing the state-run Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill in Smyrna; community-facing units serving about 20,000 vulnerable Delawareans older than 60; and the Adult Protective Services unit, which protects vulnerable adults who are at risk of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation. She will begin her new role July 1.
“Dava Newnam is a strong leader who has a wealth of knowledge about DHSS and the people we serve,” said Secretary Magarik. “As a former Director of both the Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities and our Division of Management Services, I know she understands the evolving needs of Delaware’s seniors and adults with disabilities, and is strategic in prioritizing and maximizing the resources that DHSS receives on both the state and federal levels. Dava also has been working on the frontlines to reduce the staffing shortages that DHSS is facing, especially in health care-related positions.”
Newnam is replacing Sarah Noonan Davis, who has served as Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Special Populations, Strategic Planning and Innovation since February 2021. During her tenure, Noonan Davis focused on special populations, as well as strategic planning and innovative practices that are needed to move the department into the 21st century. She oversaw the Divisions of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities, Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities Services, and Visually Impaired, and the Department’s three in-patient facilities, the Stockley Center, the Delaware Psychiatric Center, and the Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill. During her tenure, Noonan Davis’ accomplishments and contributions included overseeing the transition of services from one of the state’s largest providers of substance use disorder (SUD), mental health, and intellectual and developmental disabilities services; spearheading continuous quality improvement initiatives at the Delaware Psychiatric Center and within the Psychiatric Residency program; overseeing the implementation of the Homebound COVID-19 Vaccine program; and aligning initiatives and services across the DHSS divisions through the creation of the internal SUD Workgroup and the Pregnant and Post-partum People with SUD subgroup. Her final day at DHSS will be June 30.
“I am grateful to Sarah Noonan Davis for the energy, compassion and strategic thinking she has brought to her role as Deputy Cabinet Secretary,” Secretary Magarik said. “I know this was a difficult decision for Sarah, and I join other DHSS employees in wishing her the best in her endeavors to come.”
Carla Mitchell-Penny, Human Resources Director for DHSS, has been named Chief of Staff in the Office of the Secretary. She will work in conjunction with executive team members to determine and prioritize departmental strategies and goals, ensure the cohesive movement of departmental objectives toward the mission, and streamline and standardize daily operations in the Secretary’s Office. Mitchell-Penny replaces Michele Stant, who left to become Chief of Financial Management in the Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance. Mitchell-Penny began her new role June 21.
In addition to the Deputy Secretary and Chief of Staff announcement in the Office of the Secretary, Secretary Magarik also announced temporary changes in leadership at the Division of Public Health:
Dr. Rick Hong, who has served in various leadership roles at the Division of Public Health (DPH) during the past 15 years, has been named Acting Director of the Division of Public Health, effective July 1. Dr. Hong will lead the division temporarily during the search to find a replacement for the departing DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. Dr. Rattay is leaving DPH at the end of June after more than 13 years of leading Delaware’s public health team and serving the people of Delaware.
Dr. Hong, who served during much of the COVID-19 pandemic as Medical Director at DPH, is currently serving as Medical Director for the Emergency Medical Services and Preparedness Section at DPH.
“I am grateful to Dr. Hong, who has so much experience with the Division of Public Health programs and especially its COVID-19 response, for assuming this additional role,” Secretary Magarik said. “Having him lead the division until we can find a physician to lead DPH means that all of our programs there, including the COVID response, are in very good hands.”
Jamie Mack, who has served in various positions at DPH during his 18 years with the agency, has been named Acting Deputy Director, effective July 1. After stints in the Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention and Community Environmental Health programs, Mack joined the Director’s Office as the DPH Policy Lead in 2015. He completed his Master’s Degree in Public Administration while working as the Division’s Liaison with the General Assembly, supporting policy efforts across a wide range of public health priorities. Mack returned to his roots in December 2017, taking over as Section Chief of Health Systems Protection and serving as the State Environmental Health Director for Delaware. He lives in Magnolia, with his wife, son and daughter.
Steven Blessing, who has served as Chief of the Emergency Medical Services and Preparedness Branch of DPH for 10 years, has been named Acting Deputy Director in charge of the State Health Operations Center (SHOC), effective July 1. SHOC oversees the COVID-19 response in Delaware and other public health emergencies. Blessing has served in other DPH leadership roles for the past 28 years, including Emergency Medical Services Director, Paramedic Administrator and Executive Assistant to the Director of Public Health. Prior to his work with DPH, he was an investment banker with Dean Witter Reynolds and served eight years as an Officer in the U.S. Army. Blessing earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Delaware and a Master’s Degree from Webster University in Webster Groves, Missouri.
Mack and Blessing are replacing Deputy Director Crystal Webb, who is also leaving DPH at the end of June after 13 years as Deputy Director.
The Department of Health and Social Services, with about 3,500 employees, is responsible for meeting the health and social service needs of Delawareans by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency and protecting vulnerable populations.