Q-and-A with Mark Horton

Dr. Mark Horton is the new–in fact, he’s the first–director of California’s Department of Public Health, one of two new state agencies that were carved out of the old state Department of Health Services. Splitting up the huge Health Services Department marked a sea change in state government, involving thousands of state employees and a tangle of logistical problems. Capitol Weekly caught up with Horton this week and asked him about the transition.

So how is the transition going?

It is going excellently. We made the transition effective July 1. We have virtually an entirely new top management team on board. We have already faced a number of challenges very successfully, so I think we are off to a great start. We did a lot of the spadework, and we did a lot of the nuts and bolts, too, such as creating new job numbers and e-mail addresses. We pulled together a new transition team and we developed an operational plan. These were good products in themselves, but the process also lifted the morale of a lot of the staff. We are on a high right now that the transition has been very smooth.
Physically, where is DPH located?

We’re all in the same place, at the (former) Department of Health Services in the East Complex. About 400 to 600 people had to physically move within the complex to another location. But we are all here at the complex, we moved in here about five or six years ago.

Is the transition completed?

It is virtually complete. There are still some relatively minor things that need to be done. For example, we’ve identified a number of issues that may need to be memorialized in interagency agreements, and we are still working on those to codify those arrangements. There may be some individual issues, but they are relatively minor. Perhaps 97 percent of the work is virtually complete. There are some details that need to be worked out, but by and large it is completed and it is a success.

What was the hardest challenge?

There were a lot of challenges right from the beginning, with the assignment of programs to two new departments, whether a public-health program or what we called a health services program.

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