HELENA — Gov. Greg Gianforte announced Tuesday his pick to lead the Department of Public Health and Human Services, the largest of Montana’s state agencies with more than a dozen divisions and wide-ranging responsibilities.

Adam Meier is a policy consultant with Connecting the Dots Policy Solutions, LLC, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before a change in gubernatorial administrations, Meier headed that state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services for roughly a year and a half.

In a prepared statement, Gianforte cast Meier as a capable fit for the department’s needs. 

“With his strong background as an effective leader and change agent, Adam will bring greater transparency, accountability, and efficiency to DPHHS as it serves Montanans,” Gianforte said.

Before leading Kentucky’s CHFS, Meier served as deputy chief of staff for policy for Republican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who lost his bid for re-election in 2019. While working in the executive office, Meier helped craft Kentucky’s Medicaid plan, known as Kentucky HEALTH, or Helping to Engage and Achieve Long Term Health.” The plan, which increased community engagement and work requirements for enrollees, was later blocked by a federal judge after it had been approved by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. 

Adam Meier

Since its passage in 2015, Montana’s Medicaid expansion program has provided health care coverage to more than 90,000 residents, nearly 9% of the state’s population, according to the Montana Health Care Foundation. The federal government has yet to approve Montana’s waiver to change its Medicaid program, after lawmakers passed increased work requirements during the 2019 legislative session.

In the announcement provided by the governor’s staff, Meier said he is “humbled and honored” to join the Gianforte administration and the DPHHS workforce. He must first be confirmed by the state Senate’s Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee.

“Together, along with other key stakeholders, we will work to build a more cohesive and effective health and human services ecosystem and improve outcomes for Montana’s most vulnerable citizens,” Meier said.

The Montana Democratic Party criticized Gianforte’s pick after the announcement was made, pointing in part to a deadly outbreak of hepatitis A during Meier’s tenure at Kentucky’s health agency and questioning his competency for the new role.

DPHHS currently has an annual budget of approximately $3 billion, including state and federal funding sources, according to spokesman Jon Ebelt. The department has roughly 2,900 employees who work in divisions ranging from addiction and mental health programming to child protective services and foster care.

A spokesperson for the governor told Montana Free Press that Meier plans to move to Montana “in the coming days.”

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Mara covers Montana’s social welfare and criminal justice systems, including public health matters such as substance use disorders and mental health care. She also tracks policy and social issues that affect LGBTQ+ people. Prior to joining Montana Free Press, Mara worked at Slate and WNYC, where she focused on radio and podcasts. She got her start in audio journalism as an intern at Montana Public Radio. Contact Mara at msilvers@montanafreepress.org, 406-465-3386 ext. 3, and follow her on Twitter.