Multnomah County Board Appoints New Health Department Director

Joanne Fuller, a Multnomah County manager who’s led three major departments and served as the county’s chief operating officer, has been named the Health Department Director.

On June 19, the Board of County Commissioners appointed Fuller to head the county’s largest department  with more than 1,000 full-time employees and a $167.5 million annual budget. As such, she takes on the cross-county effort to accomplish health reform.

“We are so lucky to have Joanne Fuller,’’ Chair Deborah Kafoury said. “She has been leading our health department during a time of immense uncertainty and transition.’’

District 2 Commissioner Loretta Smith called Fuller the “Bionic Woman’’ because of her experience and understanding of the county.

The challenge of health reform

Multnomah County is the largest safety net provider of primary medical care and dental care in the state of Oregon. Health reform transformation, which greatly expands the number of people with health insurance, creates new reimbursement methods and requires providers to  achieve better health outcomes for patients for lower costs, is one of the most significant challenges the county faces.

Fuller has led an in-house cross-departmental team tackling health reform since 2011. She was the chief operating officer at the county when she stepped in as interim health department director in November 2013 when former director Lillian Shirley took over the Public Health Division of the Oregon Health Authority.

A history of service

From 2006 through 2011, Fuller directed the Department of County Human Services which provides services to people with mental illness and addictions, senior services, services to people with developmental disabilities, services to youth in schools, anti-poverty services and services to survivors of domestic violence.

Fuller also led the Department of Community Justice from 2001 to 2006. The Department provides community corrections, adult probation and parole and juvenile justice services in Multnomah County. As a result of that work, Fuller earned a national reputation  in juvenile justice detention reform and evidence-based practices in community corrections and probation and parole.

Before joining Multnomah County in 1988, Fuller worked in the fields of mental health and domestic violence. She served as chair of the Governor's Council on Domestic Violence for six years. She has a master's degree in social work from Portland State University and served as adjunct faculty at PSU from 1990 to 1995.

In 2005, she was awarded the Oregon Citizens Crime Commission Fred Stickel Award for Public Service and the National Association of Probation Executives Executive of the Year Award. In January 2011 she was honored by the Multnomah County Managers of Color with the Dr. Arthur Flemming Award, in recognition of her work in social justice.

Joanne and her husband live in Northeast Portland where she tends an extensive garden.

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