Welfare activist wants fiercer advocate as next state DSHS chief

Oct 13, 2011
Originally published on October 12, 2011 4:55 pm

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The head of Washington's largest state agency has announced her resignation. Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Susan Dreyfus announced Wednesday she will leave at the end of the year to take a job in her home state of Wisconsin. Her departure comes as the agency prepares for another round of budget cuts.

DSHS serves more than two million clients in Washington and has an annual budget of more than $5 billion. Secretary Dreyfus has seen the agency through a period of steep budget reductions and reforms aimed at rooting out public assistance fraud.

Monica Peabody advocates for welfare recipients in Washington. She praises Dreyfus for taking the time to meet with poor clients. But hopes the next secretary is a fiercer advocate for the programs DSHS administers.

"I feel like there's a real hard line right now and I understand that taxpayers are all feeling pinched, but taking away programs that house and feed children is not the answer to welfare fraud," Peabody says.

Secretary Dreyfus plans to stay through the November special session called by Governor Chris Greogire to address another $2 billion budget gap. Gregoire says she'll look for a replacement who is "compassionate," but also understands the state's economic reality.

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