Health & Social Services gets new Juneau leadership

Sailors takes charge of Juvenile Justice, Children's Services and Public Assistance

The state of Alaska has named a 30-year health care veteran to oversee three key divisions in the Department of Health & Social Services, the department’s commissioner announced Wednesday.

Deputy Commissioner for Family, Community & Integrated Services Ree Sailors will oversee the Juvenile Justice, Children’s Services and Public Assistance divisions, in a small restructuring of how the state government’s largest department is organized.

Sailors replaces Patrick Hefley, who left state government in April, department spokeswoman Sarana Schell said.

Sailors will be based in Juneau, as was Hefley.

“Ms. Sailors brings a wealth of knowledge on new issues the department is addressing, including the adoption of electronic health records and the infrastructure for that system,” said Commissioner William Streur in a press release announcing the appointment.

She was most recently with the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices, where she was a program director responsible for providing policy assistance to states on electronic health information exchange, the center’s Health Information Technology portfolio and the adoption and use of electronic health records.

Prior to her work for the National Governors Association, Sailors was senior health policy advisor in the Office of the Governor of Oregon, and did related work in Washington.

“We’re glad to have her and her expertise on board,” Streur said.

Sailors has a master’s degree in social work from Florida State University with an emphasis in planning and administration, Schell said.

The restructuring will place the state’s Pioneer Homes, formerly under Hefley, under Deputy Commissioner Kimberli Poppe-Smart, who is in charge of Medicaid and health care policy. She is based in Anchorage.

“The reorganization takes advantage of Kimberli Poppe-Smart’s expertise in Medicaid,” Schell said.

Sailors began her new position on Nov. 1, Schell said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at


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