NJ`s Indian American health chief announces resignation

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 21:10

New York: Indian American Poonam Alaigh, who is New Jersey`s top health official, has announced that she would step down from the post after 14 months in office citing personal reasons.

Alaigh was the second Indian-American to be appointed
to a cabinet post in the US state of New Jersey, the first
being Kris Kolluri, former CEO of the state`s Schools
Development Authority and former Commissioner of New Jersey`s
Department of Transportation.

The announcement of her resignation as the Health and
Senior Services commissioners of the state comes as her agency
faces opposition from from a section of people for the way it
is implementing regulations to make medical-marijuana
available for people with certain illnesses.

The critics that include Democrats and advocates of
medical-marijuana say that the rules are too restrictive and
do not meet the intent of the law passed last year, which made
New Jersey the 14th state to legalise medical marijuana.

Alaigh, who was appointed to the post on Jan 27, 2010,
by Republican Governor Chris Christie, announced that she will
step down on April 1 because of a "family emergency."

Alaigh was serving as executive medical director of
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield when Christie nominated her to
the commissioner`s post.

South Asians are part of the state`s fastest-growing
Asian-American community which comprises 8.2 per cent of New
Jersey`s nearly nine million population.

"I am passionate about the work and accomplishments we
have been able to deliver for the families of New Jersey
during this time of unprecedented budget challenges," Alaigh
said in a statement.

"So, it is with both pride and difficulty that I
announce my resignation from the department."

Governor Christie praised Alaigh`s service to the
state.

He said: "Her commitment and passion for the job has
been unprecedented, and her stewardship of the department has
been world-class through a period of economic difficulty and
an increased need among our citizens for quality health-care
services."

Upendra Chivukula, deputy speaker of New Jersey
Assembly and first and only South Asian-American lawmaker in
the 120-member New Jersey Legislature, said she has introduced
innovative programmes for health care delivery and health care
solutions that will continue to provide long-term benefits to
recipients, as will her advocacy of cutting-edge medical
technology.

Interestingly, her deputy, Deputy Commissioner Susan
Walsh has also put in her papers simultaneously, raising
doubts over the whole issue, some state government officials
aver.

The resignations have come at a time when the
department is facing flak on the medical marijuana issue.

The department`s move to open six alternative
treatment centres around the state to grow and sell marijuana
has also drawn severe criticism from a section of the public.

Health department officials had said they wanted to
make available marijuana to people with certain terminal
illness.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 21:10

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