Executive Commissioner

Date: July 22, 2016
Contact: Bryan Black, 512-424-6951

HHSC Announces Senior Staff Appointments for New Medical and Social Services Division

AUSTIN – HHS Executive Commissioner Charles Smith today introduced the team that will guide the new Medical and Social Services division.

The team will serve under Deputy Executive Commissioner Gary Jessee, who will head the division, which will be the largest part of the transformed agency when it begins operations Sept. 1. The new division will integrate client services and supports from the Health and Human Services agencies and support individuals across a broad continuum. 

"The Medical and Social Services division will better leverage our resources and focus them on serving the people who need our help," Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Smith said. "I have full faith in the leaders Deputy Executive Commissioner Gary Jessee has assembled and believe this team will eventually make the agency a benchmark for the rest of the country. It brings us one step closer to our goal of a well-designed, successful system." 

The HHS System Transition Plan will be posted to the Health and Human Services Commission's website for review. The plan reflects an update to the organizational structure of the MSS division, which will consist of four departments: Medicaid and CHIP Services; Access and Eligibility Services; Health, Developmental and Independence Services; and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Behavioral Health Services.

"All of the programs supported under the Medical and Social Services division will be overseen by individuals who possess a passion for the work they do and a commitment to furthering programmatic success through meaningful integration and transformation," said Deputy Executive Commissioner Jessee. "Today's announcement is a win for Texans."

The new department leaders are:

  • Wayne Salter, Associate Commissioner for Access and Eligibility Services
  • Jami Snyder, Associate Commissioner for Medicaid and CHIP Services
  • Lesley French, Associate Commissioner for Health, Developmental and Independence Services
  • Sonja Gaines, Associate Commissioner for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Behavioral Health Services

In addition, David Hagerla has been named director of Medical and Social Services Cross-Division Coordination.

Wayne Salter has more than 19 years of progressive leadership experience in social services. He is currently the deputy executive commissioner for the HHSC, Office of Social Service, where he leads more than 9,000 staff who administer public assistance programs to more than six millions Texans every year. Salter has a Bachelor of Science in management and an associate's degree in business administration. He is a graduate of the Florida Center for Public Management through the Rueben Askew School of Public Management at Florida State University receiving designation as a certified public manager.

Jami Snyder most recently served as chief deputy director for Medicaid and CHIP. Before coming to HHSC, she was the chief operating officer for the University of Arizona Health Plans, a division of Banner Health. She has more than 18 years of experience in the public and private sectors, overseeing Medicaid-contracted health plans, including adherence to established federal and state managed care regulations, as well as driving managed care organization performance in a variety of areas. Snyder graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and has a Master of Arts in political science from Arizona State University.   

Lesley French is currently the associate commissioner of Women’s Health Services Division. She was previously the Women's Health coordinator. She has 20 years of experience in all three branches of government including legislative work on banking reforms, real estate, deregulation of electric utilities, and criminal justice issues. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She is a member of the State Bar of Texas.

Sonja Gaines is currently the associate commissioner for Mental Health Coordination with HHSC. She coordinates the policy and delivery of mental health services across Texas state agencies that receive more than $7 billion dollars in state funding for behavioral health care and supports. Previously, Gaines served as chief of mental health services with MHMR Tarrant, the second largest community mental health center in Texas. She holds a master’s in business administration from Texas Women’s University, a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from William Paterson University.

David Hagerla has served as deputy commissioner for Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services for the past year. Before that, he was the director for the Center for Policy and External Relations at DARS. Hagerla has 20 years of public service, spanning a variety of agencies and programs. He has a Bachelor of Science in accounting from Auburn University and a master's degree in social work from the University of Texas at Austin.


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