LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas’ new drug director will be responsible for administering about $24 million in drug abuse and prevention treatment grants that previously were under the control of various Department of Human Services divisions, the agency said Wednesday.
Last week, Gov. Asa Hutchinson appointed Kirk Lane of Benton as state drug director at an annual salary of $108,110. Former Drug Director Denny Altes of Fort Smith, who resigned in May, was paid a $73,000 salary.
A spokesman for Hutchinson said last week the salary for the position would be increased to reflect new responsibilities, including serving on Gillespie’s executive team. Previously, the drug director has been responsible for coordinating drug treatment and prevention programs across the state but has not managed DHS programs.
Lane has served as Benton police chief since 2009 and was employed by the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office for 20 years. He will start in his new position Aug. 7.
“When Chief Lane and I met, one of the first things he said to me is that we as a state need to do more education and prevention work related to drug abuse and addiction, and I couldn’t agree more,” Gillespie said in a statement Wednesday.
“That’s why we will be giving him more tools to address these issues and will be elevating the position to a member of my executive team,” she said. “That will allow him to help shape not only the state’s approach to this problem but also how this agency addresses substance abuse among the families and teens we serve.”
Lane will lead a team from DHS’ Division of Behavior Health Services, according the agency.
DHS officials have been working for more than a year to restructure the agency and make it more efficient. The agency said Wednesday that placing its drug abuse and prevention treatment programs under the control of Lane and his team will allow the creation of a more comprehensive strategy.
That strategy will encompass several different DHS programs, including Medicaid, child welfare and youth services, as well as partner agencies and organizations, DHS said.
Division of Behavioral Health Services Director Jay Hill said in a statement, “Our agency has worked with mental health professionals, law enforcement, treatment centers and other stakeholders for years, and we have great confidence in Kirk to make those efforts more cohesive as we educate the public about prevention, signs of abuse and intervention while treating those who suffer from addiction to reduce the number of families impacted by substance abuse.”