KHI News Service

Brownback announces new SRS and KDHE chiefs

A family practice doctor from western Kansas will lead KDHE; a Florida health official will oversee SRS

By KHI NEWS SERVICE | January 03, 2011

Dr. Robert Moser, a family practice physician from western Kansas, will be the new head of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

And Rob Siedlecki, a Florida health agency official, will become the new secretary of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

The hirings were announced today by Governor-elect Sam Brownback during a Statehouse press conference. A Brownback aide said the incoming administration aims to announce the few remaining cabinet appointments by week's end. Among the still unannounced appointments to come are top officials for the departments of aging, corrections and wildlife and parks.

The two men named today will work on the new administration's goals of "improving family stability and increasing family security," transition officials said.

"Preserving the family is essential to preserving our freedom," Brownback said. "For this reason, our administration will work for a strengthening of healthy marriages, a decrease in the percentage of children in poverty and protection from threats to our state's families."

Moser, 52, currently is director of Rural Health and Outreach at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, a job he began in September. Prior to that he was medical director of Greeley County Health Services, a rural health care organization that has gained notice for its innovations and ability to attract health care providers.

Moser was the 2006 Kansas Family Physician of the Year and has served on various state task forces that have studied various rural and primary health care issues.

Moser, a Tribune native, said he agreed with KDHE's recent, controversial approval of an expansion permit for a coal-fired, electrical power station sought by Sunflower Electric Corp.

He also said he was aware of earlier proposals to split the agency into separate departments of health and environment but had not yet decided if the department would benefit from that sort of reorganization.

"I haven't really got into that at this point," he said. "I've not had a chance to go into much detail about all that."

SRS Secretary Rob Siedlecki

View larger photo

Siedlicki, 41, currently is chief of staff for the Florida Department of Health. He was a special assistant to the Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2001 to 2005. A Republican, he made a bid for the Florida House of Representatives in 2006 but was unable to unseat incumbent State Rep. Shelley Vana.

Siedlicki said he would encourage members of "faith-based," and community organizations to "volunteer as mentors to children, young adults or even older adults," who rely upon the state's welfare programs.

"It's very important to bring in faith-based and community organizations because government doesn't have the answer all the time," he said. "These organizations have street credibility. They know how to help people."

He also said he would bolster the agency's efforts to encourage low-income families to take advantage of public assistance programs.

Cabinet appointments require confirmation by the Kansas Senate but both men are scheduled to begin their new jobs when the new administration takes office Jan. 10. Transition officials said their salaries would not be made public before then.

SRS and KDHE have budgets of about $1.6 billion and $263 million, respectively, for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Almost 90 percent of the KDHE budget and 60 percent of the SRS budget are federally funded.

SRS oversees the state’s poverty programs, child protection services and services for people with mental, physical, and developmental disabilities.

The department has about 5,200 employees. An additional 1,050 positions are authorized but vacant in the wake of spending cuts over the past two years.

Since the mid-1990s, many SRS services have been farmed out to private contractors. Also, most of the department’s Medicaid responsibilities – payments to doctors, hospitals and pharmacies, for example - were transferred to the then-new Kansas Health Policy Authority in 2005.

SRS continues to oversee the state’s Medicaid-funded services for people with physical, mental and developmental disabilities. The department has offices in 42 counties across the state. It also runs the state hospitals in Topeka, Parsons, Larned, Osawatomie and Kansas City.

KDHE has 962 employees. Its Division of Health runs the state’s public health, immunization, child development and vital statistics programs.

The Division of Environment oversees air and water quality, and regulates landfills and feedlots. A third division runs the state’s laboratory network and oversees the certification of 2,000 private-sector laboratories.

The state’s health laboratory conducts more than 1 million health-related tests a year.