DHHS Announces Ian Yaffe as Next Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

January 24, 2023

As the largest Department in State government that serves one in three Maine residents, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is committed to removing barriers to services for various populations, improving equitable outcomes, and making working in and with DHHS a positive experience for people of all cultures, races, ethnicities, and identities. To this end, Ian Yaffe will become the next Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) for the Department on January 30. 

Ian currently is the Director of the Office of Population Health Equity at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), where he has served since September 2021. The Mills Administration created this Office with input from stakeholders in Maine after the previous administration had eliminated the Maine CDC’s Office of Minority Health, recognizing the need for focused, high-level effort to address the broad community-level factors that disproportionately affect the health of different groups of residents.  

At the Office of Population Health Equity, Ian has built a diverse and talented team, created a Health Equity Advisory Council, and led the planning and implementation of a $32 million grant to reduce health disparities, among other accomplishments. This grant supports improvements to the Department’s data and reporting systems, investments in Department and community-based infrastructure to reduce COVID-19 disparities, and the advancement of health equity and social determinates of health through partnerships. Highlights from the implementation to date include investing in tribal communities and the capacity of community-based organizations, supporting community health workers, expanding community paramedicine in partnership with MaineEMS, launching the Building-ME Network project to address rural health care workforce shortages, expanding telehealth services in rural communities, and expanding partnerships through the Community Care Program

This built on Ian’s work for the Department from March to September 2021 as Chief Operating Officer of DHHS’ COVID-19 Social Supports. This program served nearly 35,000 people through December 2022, with 30 percent of households served supported by community-based organizations that provide culturally-appropriate services to help families get the information and resources they need to stay safe. 

Since June 2020, DHHS invested over $30 million in federal funds to reduce health disparities related to COVID-19 through social supports, COVID-19 prevention activities, vaccination outreach and education, community health workers, and health equity infrastructure. Over half of these funds have been awarded to community-based organizations. 

As the next Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Ian will serve in the Commissioner’s Office helping to refine, implement, and make into a living document the Department’s Strategic Plan to Advance DEI. This will include work within DHHS to strengthen human resources, systems, data, and policies as well as to bring communities into decision-making processes. He will collaborate across Maine State Government and other statewide efforts to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. And he will be a key participant in the major initiatives of DHHS such as reforming the General Assistance program and tackling behavioral health system challenges. Ian will support OPHE as Maine CDC completes a search for the Office’s new leader. 

Ian’s work with DHHS builds on his eleven years of work as the executive director at Mano en Mano, a nonprofit that provides educational, health, housing, and advocacy supports to immigrant and farmworker communities as well as his service in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve as a Senior Chief Boatswain Mate. Ian received his undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College and his master’s degree from the University of Washington.