Lynne Saxton Heralded as Next OHA Director
After Gov. Kitzhaber announced that he’d tapped Lynne Saxton to run the Oregon Health Authority, it wasn’t long before plaudits started raining in.
Saxton is expected to be confirmed the week of January 12 by the Oregon Senate, and step into her new role the following Monday.
The Oregon Health Authority has the largest budget and second-largest workforce among state agencies, and has been without a permanent leader for about a year, when Bruce Goldberg moved over to Cover Oregon, which oversees Oregon’s health insurance marketplace.
Since then, Suzanne Hoffman has been interim director, but told Kitzhaber she wasn’t interested in seeking the permanent position, and is expected to return to her previous role as chief operating officer of the health authority.
Calling Saxton a brilliant yet unexpected choice, Dr. Robert Dannenhoffer, who sat on the interview committee, considers her the best person for the job.
“Rather than Kitzhaber choosing someone from his own political party, clearly Lynne knows the values of Oregonians and will bring stability to the organization, which is crying out for stability, “said Dannenhoffer, CEO of Umpqua Health Alliance and Architrave Health in Roseburg.
Saxton’s also a great communicator and, when questioned by the interview committee, “she almost knew what we were going to ask her about,” Dannenhoffer said. “Lynne has a great view of the whole spirit of transformation, and will surround herself with very good people.”
Dnnenhoffer doesn’t expect Saxton to show any favoritism, saying she doesn’t have a relationship with any of the 16 coordinated care organizations that provide physical, mental and dental coverage for nearly 1 million people on the Oregon Health Plan.
“She won’t be in anyone’s pocket,” he said. “Ever since Bruce Goldberg left, there’s been a gap in leadership, and transformation is moving at a rapid pace with the integration of mental health, dental health and transportation. It’s a very tough job, and I’m confident Lynne can handle it.”
Another CCO leader, Jeff Heatherington, also couldn’t hold back his enthusiasm for the new appointee, whom he has yet to meet.
“The governor picked an excellent person in Lynne Saxton as the new director,” said Heatherington, president and CEO of FamilyCare. “She’ll bring a high level of administrative skill and fairness to the organization. There is a tremendous need for culture change, and she has the ability to bring about that change, and make the agency a valued partner in bringing health to all Oregonians.”
Earlier, Sean Kolmer, Gov. Kitzhaber’s health policy advisor, told OPB that Saxton’s experience running health organizations made her a good choice. “She’s been an executive director and/or a chief operating officer for healthcare providers for the last ten years or so, and that’s where her most direct experience is.”
Her primary job, he said, is to build on the transformation of the state’s healthcare system.
Janet Arenz, executive director of the Oregon Alliance of Children’s Programs, also heralded Gov. Kitzhaber’ decision, saying he selected someone with the background and experience to shepherd in a new era of integration between physical and behavioral health who will hold the CCOs and their partners to a high standard..
“Her advocacy for health and education over the past decade represents the heart of reforms in Oregon and the changes that still need to be achieved,” she said. “With her appointment as the director of the Oregon Health Authority, we can look forward to increasing focus on the linkages between health and education; and the opportunity for true savings and outcomes that will have a positive effect on all Oregonians. We are looking forward to partnering with her in these endeavors. Research shows that long-term health and wellness begins at a young age, and that prevention and intervention for at-risk youth and families is also key.”
Saxton’s extensive background
Saxton’s been the executive director of Youth Villages Oregon, which provides mental health and other services to children and families, and also has had leadership roles at ChristieCare, a provider of mental health services, and as public affairs manager for Portland General Electric.
She is active in community and civic leadership positions, including service on the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission, the Early Learning Council, Portland Indian Leaders Roundtable and the Willamette University Board of Trustees. She has also served as chair of the Metropolitan Family Services Board, and recently received the Gordon and Sharon Smith New Freedom Award from the Oregon Chapter of NAMI. Saxton also has been on the Oregon Alliance of Children’s Programs board of directors and was a past president.
Diane can be reached at [email protected].