July 11, 2008
ALLIES MOVIN' ON UP IN ALBANY
Baker: sound voice for people with HIV/AIDS
Gov. David Paterson announced Tuesday that Dennis Whalen will serve as Interim Director of State Operations and Joe Baker has been promoted to Acting Deputy Secretary for Health and Human Services to the Governor.
As director of state operations, all of Paterson's undersecretaries will report to Whalen, and he will be directly responsible for state funding. This is a big deal, said an Albany insider, since next year New York state will likely face pressure to make steep budget cuts like those that just happened in New York City. "Having someone with very deep and very wide experience on HIV/AIDS will be very valuable," the source said.
Whalen has worked behind the scenes since the beginning of New York's response to the AIDS epidemic. Before being appointed to his most recent position, Whalen was Spitzer's Deputy Secretary for Health and Human Services. As the governor's go-to guy on health policy, he fought for important issues such as Medicaid reform and SSI invisibility. Whalen previously served in the Department of Health as Executive Deputy Commissioner, Director of the Office of Health Systems Management, and Executive Deputy Director of the AIDS Institute.
Whalen will be missed in the day-to-day health decision-making, but there is no doubt that Baker will be a worthy replacement. Baker has a similarly stellar track record on HIV/AIDS and poverty, and a strong knowledge-base on these issues. From 1989 to 1994, Baker was the Associate Director of Legal Services for Gay Men's Health Crisis, and he most recently served as Assistant Deputy Secretary for Health and Human Services for Paterson.
AIDS advocates will be sure that Whalen and Baker don't rest on their extensive laurels. Housing Works President and CEO Charles King said, "I am counting on both Dennis and Joe continuing to be strong advocates for low income New Yorkers living with AIDS and HIV."