February 24, 2011

Mills dismissed from new position at DHHS

Lawmakers praise her work, efforts

By Rebekah Metzler
MaineToday Media State House Writer

AUGUSTA -- Lawmakers in both major parties said Wednesday that they were disappointed that Dr. Dora Anne Mills had been fired by the LePage administration from her position in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Mills, who began work as medical director in the Office of MaineCare Services in early January, previously served for about 15 years as director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"As DHHS continues to assemble its new leadership team, Dr. Dora Anne Mills has been relieved of her duties," said a statement released by John Martins, spokesman for the department. "DHHS will continue to assess and evaluate the administrative responsibilities at OMS. We wish Dr. Mills the best in future endeavors."

Mills declined to comment Wednesday.

She is the second person in the Office of MaineCare Services to be dismissed by Gov. Paul LePage's administration. Anthony Marple, the state's former Medicaid director, was fired about a month ago.

Dan Demeritt, spokesman for LePage, declined to comment Wednesday. He did deny speculation that Mills was fired because of her previous support for banning bisphenol-A from children's products.

LePage, a Republican, has proposed that the state repeal its ban on the chemical. In remarks that have drawn fire from environmental groups, he said last week that he has not seen enough science to convince him that it poses a health threat.

Rep. Meredith Strang Burgess, R-Cumberland, the House chairwoman of the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee, said she has been a huge admirer of Mills.

"She's done a fantastic job in any of her different positions she's been in. She's such a smart, capable woman who has clearly always done the right thing for the state of Maine," Strang Burgess said. "I'm disappointed to hear this and I will miss her greatly. She's a Class A, great woman, and very talented."

House Minority Leader Emily Cain, D-Orono, said Mills' service in state government was a "gift" to Mainers.

"She was always able to bring things back to, how do they impact people and why we should care about the impact of our environment and about the policies that we craft on people's health," Cain said, "and she did it in a way that was credible, that was not political and that was extremely warm and friendly."

Sen. Margaret Craven, D-Lewiston, who serves on the Health and Human Services Committee, said she understands that new administrations want to make their own appointments, but she questions Mills' firing.

"When you are just gutting the entire division, and before you even have your team together, I think that that is not putting people first," Craven said.

Mills is a sister of former Sen. Peter Mills, a Republican, and former Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat. She received her undergraduate degree at Bowdoin College, went to medical school at the University of Vermont and earned a master's degree in public health at Harvard University.

She is a registered Democrat who was appointed director of the Maine CDC by Gov. Angus King, an independent.

Mills, in her capacity as director of the Maine CDC, agreed with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection's judgment that BPA is a chemical of "high concern."

"There is no controversy that BPA is an endocrine disruptor, acting by inhibiting the effects of estrogen, a vital reproductive and developmental hormone," she wrote in a letter submitted to the DEP in April 2010. "The current consensus of most scientists, as well as U.S. and international governmental agencies, is that there is sufficient evidence that BPA produces adverse effects at environmentally relevant exposures."

Rebekah Metzler -- 620-7016


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