Sanja Kovacevic Bugay is returning to Fresno County’s Department of Social Services, but this time it’s as the director.
Bugay succeeds Delfino Delfino Neira, who resigned in November of last year after the department was found to be housing minors under the care of Fresno County Child Protective Services in unsafe and unsanitary living conditions. Maria Aguirre became the interim director on Dec. 13, 2021.
Bugay has spent the last six-plus years heading Kings County’s Human Services Agency.
During that time, she overhauled Child Welfare Services, resulting in a reduction of foster care placement cases and eliminating emergency response backlogs. Bugay also led the Kings County Whole Person Care Pilot, which addressed high emergency room use and jail recidivism rates.
”Sanja’s previous experience working in Fresno County, coupled with the innovative work she has done at Kings County, make her the right choice to navigate our Department of Social Services in the years ahead,” said Fresno County Administrative Officer Paul Nerland in a news release. “We are thrilled to have her return to the Fresno County family.”
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors appointed Bugay on Tuesday.
Earlier in her career, Bugay was Fresno County’s deputy director of social services. During that time, she oversaw the county’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the DSS Service Center, which improved the speed and accuracy of services for Medi-Cal and CalFresh clients.
Supervisors Promote Holt to Behavioral Health Director
In addition, the board elevated Susan L. Holt, LMFT, to Behavioral Health Director and Public Guardian on Tuesday.
Holt became interim director after Dawan Utecht left in December 2021 to join Alameda-based Telecare Inc. as a senior executive. Utecht had led the department for more than eight years.
Holt will lead a department with more than 700 employees and 70 programs.
“It is truly an honor to be appointed as the next Director of Behavioral Health and Public Guardian. I am fortunate to work with a committed and passionate team of colleagues within our
department and across our network of partner organizations,” Holt said. “The department has made great strides in the last decade to expand our array of services while also strengthening
our culture of wellness and recovery. ”
Said Nerland: “As the interim director, Susan has done an excellent job managing the department during this critical transition. Her expertise and passion for helping the Fresno County residents with their mental health wellness are among the many gifts she brings to bear as the new director of Behavioral Health.”
Behavioral Health’s mission is helping residents with mental health or substance use challenges. The department provides programs, treatment, education, prevention, and information. It also funds community programs and services to assist those who are under-insured or have no insurance to obtain care.