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Iowa Governor Pushes Human Services Director To Resign

jerry foxhoven
Katarina Sostaric
Former Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven speaks to reporters on April 1.

This post was updated Tuesday, June 18, at 11:47 a.m. 

Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven resigned Monday at the request of Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. 

"Gov. Reynolds asked Foxhoven to resign because she wanted to go in a new direction at the Department of Human Services," governor's spokesman Pat Garrett said Tuesday. "She has spent the first part of this year assembling a new team, from top to bottom, to carry out her vision. More changes will be announced in the coming days and weeks ahead." 

Reynolds appointed Foxhoven to the position two years ago.

Her office sent a news release Monday afternoon announcing that Gerd Clabaugh, director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, will take the top job at DHS until the governor names a permanent director. The email mentioned that Foxhoven resigned effective Monday, but gave no other details.  

Foxhoven later confirmed that Reynolds asked him to resign. 

"It was an honor to serve Iowans at the Department of Human Services during an important time of transition," Foxhoven said in a statement. "I wish the many hard-working employees at the department the very best and know they will continue to serve the people of Iowa well."

DHS oversees Medicaid, child welfare, public assistance and other programs. The department has recently been at the center of several high-profile news stories.

Foxhoven testified in a federal trial in which Disability Rights Iowa is accusing DHS of using unconstitutional and illegal practices to treat mental illness at a state-run residential school in Eldora for boys convicted of crimes.

DHS has also come under scrutiny for a spike in deaths at the Glenwood Resource Center, a state institution for Iowans with severe disabilities.

And in about two weeks, the state’s privately managed Medicaid program will see one insurance company leave and a new one come online, shifting hundreds of thousands of patients to a new company.

Reynolds appointed Foxhoven to the DHS director position in 2017. Foxhoven was taskedwith improving Iowa’s child welfare system, which became a prominent issue when two teenagers died after being adopted out of foster care.

Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said the governor should launch a nationwide search for a director who will fight for more resources and stronger policies.

"It's especially bad news for Medicaid recipients, health care providers and Iowa taxpayers that the governor's director is leaving in the middle of negotiations with both out-of-state managed care organizations and when hundreds of thousands of Iowans are two weeks away from transitioning to a new MCO," Petersen said. 

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter