PROVIDENCE -- Adelita Orefice confirmed today that she is stepping down as the $123,892-a-year head of Rhode Island's Executive Office of Health & Human Services within 10 days, making way for an as-yet unidentified replacement.
In a brief interview today, Orefice said she put the governor's office on notice when she took the job that she hoped to leave when she reached her 10-year anniversary in state government this summer.
She said she is leaving the job early for a new assignment within the R.I. Health Department, so that someone new can step in "shepherd'' the Carcieri administration's unprecedented Medicaid agreement with the Bush administration.
The agreement would give Republican Carcieri freedom from many of the tight rules that currently govern the Medicaid program, in exchange for a $12 million spending cap over the next five years. A former state labor director, Orefice was given the title deputy secretary of OHHS when she was brought in to replace former human services secretary Jane Hayward.
At that time, the governor's said Orefice would oversee what Carcieri in his 2008 state of the state address described as a "transformation" of the state's Medicaid program "from one centered on institutions and agencies to a system that focuses on the people who use it: our children, the elderly, and those with disabilities."
While the proposal was evolving, however, Orefice said she was more involved in consolidating the administrative and operational functions within the human-services agencies under her purview.
There was no immediate comment from Carcieri's office on her departure from the job, but Orefice said it is "my understanding the governor has somebody in mind'' to replace her.
In her remaining months in state government, she said she expected to work with state health director David Gifford on a number of projects that retirements have left short-staffed, including a review of the state's two-decade-old managed care law and a performance measures project.
A four-year veteran of the Department of Labor and Training, Orefice found herself in the middle of a political battle two years ago, with the governor withdrawing her name for reconfirmation after learning that she faced an almost certain no-confidence vote by a Senate committee. Her job remained in limbo in the months that followed.