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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Local Review

Long Beach Official to Lead State Health Services

April 30, 1999

LONG BEACH — Diana M. Bonta, director of the Long Beach Health Department, was appointed Thursday by Gov. Gray Davis to be the new director of the California Department of Health Services.

Bonta, 48, becomes the first Latino to head the massive state department, which has a $23.5-billion annual budget, employs nearly 6,000 workers and is responsible for hospital licensing and providing health care for needy Californians under Medi-Cal.

The appointment represents a big jump in administrative responsibilities for Bonta, a Los Angeles resident whose department has an annual budget of $30 million and a staff of 400.

"I'm kind of taking a deep breath," Bonta said Thursday after appearing at a ceremony for a family preservation program in Long Beach that she was instrumental in starting. "But I feel ready for it. I feel extremely ready for it."

Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill said Bonta, who has run the Long Beach agency for 10 years, "is among the very best in her field. . . . We will miss her."

The Long Beach Health Department is one of only three municipally run health departments in California. Under Bonta's direction, its annual budget jumped from $10 million to $30 million, almost all of the money coming in grants from state, federal and other agencies.

Bonta said she will immediately begin commuting back and forth to Sacramento a couple of days a week, but will not take over full time until June because of family obligations.

The state Health Services Department has been without a director since January.

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