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Charles Palmer announces retirement as director of the Department of Human Services

State capitol building in Des Moines
DES MOINES – Today, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that she has received Charles (Chuck) Palmer’s retirement as director of the Iowa Department of Human Services effective June 16, 2017. The Iowa DHS’ mission is “to help Iowans achieve healthy, safe, stable, and self-sufficient lives through its programs and services.” A photo of Palmer can be found here.

“Chuck has been a dedicated public servant who has spent his life trying to improve the lives of Iowans,” Gov. Reynolds said. “He has been instrumental in modernizing our Medicaid program, implementing our Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, and launching our Mental Health and Disability redesign, while helping individuals and families achieve safe, stable, self-sufficient and healthy lives. I want to wish him well as he enjoys his retirement with his wife and family.”

Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg thanked Chuck Palmer for his service saying, “Running the Department of Human Services is often times a very tough job. I want to thank Chuck for his professionalism and dedication to helping Iowans and wish him a happy retirement.”

Upon retiring Palmer said, “It has been an honor to serve the people of Iowa as the director of the Department of Human Services. Through the many accomplishments that the men and women in this agency have achieved, we have made a significant difference in the lives of vulnerable Iowans. Serving under the Branstad-Reynolds Administration was a great privilege. I believe the time is right for me to retire from my position as director and I stand ready to assist in any way to assure a smooth transition.”

Gov. Terry Branstad named Palmer the director of DHS twice, once in 1989 where he served as director of DHS until 1999, and again in 2011. Before serving as director of DHS, Chuck was the Department’s administrator of the Division of Mental Health. He spent more than a decade as president for Iowans for Social and Economic Development, and he also served as the director of planning and allocation of the United Way of Greater Des Moines.

Chuck Palmer began his career as a psychiatric social worker at the Des Moines Child Guidance Center in 1964, and went on to serve there as the chief psychiatric social worker. He has been active in professional associations including leadership within the National Association of Social Workers, and has received local, state and national awards recognizing his excellence in service. Palmer has taught academic courses and served on many non-profit boards throughout his career.

Palmer holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Sociology and Anthropology from Grinnell College, and a Master of Arts in Social Services Administration from the University of Chicago.

Statements on the retirement of DHS Director from Democratic State Senators:

Senator Amanda Ragan of Mason City, ranking member of the Health and Human Services Budget Committee:

“I wish retiring Director Palmer well. He’s done his best under difficult circumstances.

“However, the real problems of a disastrous budget, less staff, higher caseloads, and lack of oversight need to be addressed. The rollout, implementation, and proven problems with Medicaid privatization can no longer be overlooked. We need an open, honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of DHS and what it needs to succeed, including funding and staffing levels.”

Senator Liz Mathis of Robins, ranking member of the Senate Human Services Committee:
“With Director Palmer’s retirement comes the opportunity to address some of the problematic issues around casework and managed care. I hope Governor Reynolds will consider someone who is willing to work with both sides of the aisle to accomplish more accessibility to critical services like mental health.
“I have worked with Director Palmer in a number of ways, from strategic planning on children’s mental health to Medicaid and managed care. He had a difficult job but Director Palmer was professional and accessible to me as a legislator. I wish him well.”

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