Governor Dan McKee today announced his appointment of current Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals (BHDDH) Director Richard Charest to serve as the next Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS). The Governor has sent Charest’s name to the Rhode Island Senate for advice and consent.

“Since his arrival at BHDDH, Richard Charest has made significant strides and improvements, including the opening of a new state psychiatric hospital and ensuring that Eleanor Slater Hospital is on a positive and stable path,” said Governor McKee. “His steadfast leadership, coupled with his decades of experience in the health care industry, will be a tremendous asset as he serves as EOHHS Secretary. I’m honored to appoint him to this important role, and I know he will lead with distinction.”

“I appreciate the confidence Governor McKee has placed in me, in nominating me as EOHHS Secretary,” said Director Charest. “This very important role allows me to implement over 30 years of experience to support the growing and evolving healthcare needs of Rhode Islanders. After serving nearly two years as Director of BHDDH, I have become familiar with the opportunities and challenges we face across state government. The work of our employees, legislators, and caregivers is significant, and immeasurably important to the success of Rhode Island. I look forward to expanding my collaboration with stakeholders and building relationships that promote innovation to strengthen the continuum of care.”

Charest has more than 30 years of experience in the health care sector, leading not-for-profit and for-profit community hospitals with specialty programs and a for-profit specialty hospital. Previously serving as President and CEO of Landmark Medical Center, Charest successfully led hospital operations and finances through receivership, reassured the community and engaged employees and medical staff to ensure uninterrupted high-quality care. He also served as President and CEO of the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island and held several executive leadership positions with Landmark Medical Center. Charest has served as BHDDH Director since 2021.

Ana Novais, who has been serving as Interim EOHHS Secretary since the departure of Womazetta Jones, will return to her role as Assistant EOHHS Secretary.

“I’m grateful for Ana’s willingness to step up and serve as Secretary during this interim period,” said Governor McKee. “During her tenure, we successfully worked across government to return to normal operations from the COVID-19 pandemic, effectively implement a distribution strategy for the funding received from the opioid settlement and her decades of experience and commitment to equity ensured that we had a budget proposal and programs that were reaching Rhode Islanders where they are and who needed it the most. I look forward to her partnership as she continues to play a key role on the EOHHS team.”

“I am proud of my tenure at EOHHS and of the team that we’ve built for this past year,” said Assistant Secretary Novais. “I thank Governor McKee for the opportunity to serve as Interim Secretary and I look forward to continuing to work with him and the team at EOHHS servicing our Rhode Island families and communities with the guiding principles of voice, choice and equity, at the core of the work we do.”

Dr. Louis Cerbo, Deputy BHDDH Director, will serve as Interim BHDDH Director until a permanent selection is made.

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