Former DCFS head Sonnier tapped to lead Baton Rouge Health District

    Suzy Sonnier, Louisiana’s former Department of Children and Family Services secretary under Gov. Bobby Jindal, has been chosen as the first executive director of the Baton Rouge Health District.

    In her role, Sonnier will lead the implementation of a strategic plan for the district, which is bounded by Bluebonnet Boulevard, Perkins Road, Essen Lane and Interstate 10, and includes several of the market’s major health care institutions. Sonnier will report to a joint operating board made up of leaders from health care organizations throughout Baton Rouge.

    Her appointment comes three weeks after the health district concept came under fire from a group of community activists in north Baton Rouge, who said the city-parish should be focusing its attention on the lack of health care options in the northern part of the city.

    The plan, released in December, creates a unified medical corridor in Baton Rouge. Members of the health district have identified their initial priorities as improving traffic flow, connecting parks  and reducing congestion near hospitals.

    The plan also calls for recognizing the significant and sweeping impact of chronic illness on the status of the entire Baton Rouge community and for a diabetes and obesity center.

    The Baton Rouge Health District is the brainchild of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, which commissioned the strategic plan for the district. Its members include: the Baton Rouge Clinic, Baton Rouge General Medical Center, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, LSU Health Sciences Center, LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, The Neuromedical Center, Ochsner Health System, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Woman’s Hospital, Surgical Specialty Center of Baton Rouge, and Baton Rouge Orthopaedic Clinic.

    Prior to her appointment as secretary of DCFS, Sonnier served as chief operating officer at the Louisiana Workforce Commission. She also served as DCFS deputy secretary from 2008 to 2010.

    —Stephanie Riegel

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