Gene Gessow, the state Medicaid director, has informed Human Services officials that he'll be resigning soon and moving for family reasons.
Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said the announcement was a surprise to all. "We wish he could stay, but we understand that family comes first."
The state is in the middle of overhauling Medicaid to save money. That effort won't be slowed, DeCample said. He said there was a team in place to continue the work.
Talk Business says Marilyn Strickland, chief operating officer, will serve as interim director. Gessow is taking a job in Massachusetts to be closer to family.
More from DHS spokeswoman Amy Webb:
Gene is leaving for a state job in Massachusetts. I do not know exactly what job he accepted, but he is moving to be closer to his family. He was not asked to resign. He is leaving sometime in November. I do not have an exact day yet. As John Selig told me this morning, Gene has been a real visionary, especially in his efforts to help launch the Health Care Payment Improvement Initiative. We wish he could stay on, but we understand that family takes precedence. Marilyn Strickland, the current Division of Medical Services COO, has been named interim. Marilyn has been with DHS for more than 30 years, and she knows Medicaid inside-out. She also is very familiar with the payment initiative. That project is moving forward, and we are really excited about the progress we're making. We had our first clinical area workgroup meeting yesterday, and it went great. We'll continue our work on that initiative while we look for Gene's replacement. We'll launch an aggressive national search for someone willing to lead this innovative initiative as well as the division.