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Here’s another odd story about how the Department of Health and Human Services works.
Early in the Easley Administration, when Lanier Cansler was Assistant Secretary, the department decided to ‘Reform Mental Health’ in order to save taxpayers money and provide better care.
About the same time Assistant Secretary Cansler was handling bidding out a $265 state contract for DHHS. Later, after the ‘Mental Health Reform’ plan got rolling, he decided to leave the department to go to work lobbying for one of the firms bidding on the $265 million contract.
That left the folks in the Mental Health Department carrying out the reforms, including Deputy Director of Mental Health Tara Larson – then Ms. Larson landed in hot water for running up 6951 minutes of cell phone charges making personal calls on her state phone. The department’s solution was to move her into the backwaters of DHHS where she spent the next few months lying low.
Next, after Cansler and Larson departed the scene, ‘Mental Health Reform’ turned out to be a disaster. It left the state’s mental health care programs in a shambles and cost taxpayers a whopping $400 million.
Now you might have thought that might leave the ‘Reformers’ – including Cansler and Larson – behind the eight-ball. But it didn’t.
When Governor Perdue was elected she promoted Ms. Larson to Deputy Director of DHHS $12 billion Medicaid department and made Cansler Secretary of the whole department.
So now the folks who reformed ‘Mental Health’ are running Medicaid and, on top of that, three months after the Governor made him head of DHHS Cansler’s department awarded the $265 contract to his former client.
Now the question you might ask is: Does anyone in state government have a lick of common sense?
And the answer is: Well, yes. If you look at it from their perspective.
If you’re the Director of a state Agency and another director or deputy Director – like Ms. Larson – gets in trouble common sense comes into play real quick and what it says is: The same thing could happen to you. So to Ms. Larson’s peers Governor Perdue rescuing her with another state job has a soothing feeling about it.
And what if you’re Secretary Cansler? Well, with Governor Perdue looking like an odds on favorite to be a 1-term governor common sense may be whispering to him, You’d better stay friendly with your old clients – because he may be back in the lobbying business sooner than he anticipated.
In fact, the only person who’s not showing much common sense is Governor Perdue – who’s got a problem her deputies and Cabinet Secretaries don’t. She’s got to face voters in three years. And what common sense may be whispering to them is, We’ve had enough of running state government like a three-ring circus.


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