Last month Gov. Edwards announced that Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) Secretary, Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, had submitted her resignation, effective April 6, 2023.
LDH Director of Legal, Audit and Regulatory Affairs, Stephen Russo, who has served LDH for 27 years and as executive counsel since 2008, will serve as secretary upon Sec. Phillips’ resignation, according to the announcement.
“Secretary Phillips is one of the hardest working, most capable, and most accomplished people I’ve ever met,” said Gov. Edwards. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, her decisive and thoughtful leadership saved lives. She spearheaded our response as we established an unprecedented mass testing program and innovative vaccine rollout and distribution program. Remarkably, she didn’t let the response to the COVID-19 emergency stop LDH from making progress on other important initiatives, like our work to improve health equity, address maternal mortality, and expand access to critical health services. I have no doubt she will continue her dedication to service in this next chapter for her and her family,” said Gov. Edwards.
“I’m a big believer in public service,” Sec. Phillips said, “so the opportunity to return to my home state and give back in such a meaningful way at such a critical time is something that will stay with me for the rest of my career,” said Sec. Phillips. “There’s a great deal to be proud of as the head of LDH, but the intentional effort that went into equitably rolling out the COVID-19 vaccines and ultimately saving thousands of lives ranks among my top accomplishments. I want to thank Governor Edwards for his leadership and all LDH team members, the Louisiana Legislature and the entire healthcare system of Louisiana for their support and partnership over the past three years.”
According to the announcement, Phillips, who had previously led two state health and human services agencies in Nebraska and Texas, was named LDH secretary in April 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She guided the agency through unprecedented challenge, overseeing LDH’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricanes Laura and Ida, but also led proactive efforts to strengthen the pipeline for a more diverse healthcare workforce; expand access to critical health services, including a suite of additional behavioral health services, the extension of dental benefits to adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities, the expansion of postpartum Medicaid coverage from six weeks to one year, and a focus on preventative screenings and services; and develop and implement a new, more sustainable payment model for hospitals, dental providers and ambulance providers.
Also according to the announcement, Phillips led the successful development and implementation of LDH Business Plans in FY22 and FY23 and the Department’s commitments, priorities and measurable goals on a range of health issues, including maternal health, behavioral health and chronic diseases.