AUGUSTA, Maine — Two directors of key programs in the Maine Department of Health and Human Services were dismissed Wednesday morning, according to an email provided to the Bangor Daily News.
In the email, which reportedly was sent to all DHHS staff Wednesday afternoon, Ricker Hamilton, the agency’s deputy commissioner of programs, confirmed the two former employees’ identities but did not detail how their employment ended.
According to Hamilton’s email, Guy Cousins, director of the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, and Therese Cahill-Low, director of the Office of Child and Family Services, are no longer with the department.
A source close to the situation who asked to remain anonymous said Cousins and Cahill-Low were fired on Wednesday morning.
DHHS spokesman John Martins did not respond to requests for comment or to verify the email’s authenticity. Gov. Paul LePage’s communications staff declined to comment on the matter. One of the former employees could not be reached, and the other declined to comment.
Cousins has been replaced by Sheldon Wheeler, who has been named acting director of the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, according to Hamilton’s email.
The email states that Wheeler has 25 years of experience in the nonprofit, private and public sectors. Before being named to the position, Wheeler worked in the office as associate director of quality, management and resource development; policy development manager and the director of housing resources.
Hamilton will oversee the Office of Child and Family Services until an acting director is named, according to the email.
“I appreciate the many years of service that both Guy and Therese provided and wish them success in future endeavors,” said Hamilton, who also could not be reached for comment, in the email.
Gordon Smith, a spokesman for the Maine Medical Association, said he was surprised to learn of both departures. Smith worked more closely with Cousins, on initiatives including the state’s prescription drug monitoring program and a task force charged with combating Maine’s opiate abuse problem.
“Each of those divisions are losing strong leaders,” Smith said.
In responding to substance abuse, Cousins struck an excellent balance of maintaining public safety while expressing compassion for those struggling with addiction, he said.
Cousins was a longtime DHHS staff member, joining the Office of Substance Abuse in 2006. He was appointed director in 2008. Three years later, he also became acting director of Adult Mental Health Services, and the two departments officially merged in September 2012.
Guy Cousins has no known family relationship to the writer of this report. BDN health editor Jackie Farwell contributed to this report.