State’s Health Director Resigns, as Expected

Times Staff Writer

State Health Director Diana Bonta resigned last week from her job overseeing the far-flung $32-billion department, which provides medical services and programs for millions of poor and disabled Californians.

Bonta, appointed in 1999 by former Gov. Gray Davis, had been expected to step aside after Arnold Schwarzenegger won the recall election in November. She declined an interview request last week.

Lea Brooks, spokeswoman for the Department of Health Services, said that Bonta had sent out a letter thanking her staff Thursday, her last day. No replacement has been named.


Bonta grew up in New York and became a nurse before earning her master’s and doctorate degrees in public health at UCLA. During her 30 years in health care, Bonta directed health and human services for Long Beach and served as deputy director of the Los Angeles Regional Family Planning Councils.

Bonta ran one of the state’s largest departments, with 6,000 employees and an array of missions, including licensing of nursing homes, hospitals and clinics. She helped guide the state’s anti-smoking campaign, its response to SARS and its preparedness for bioterrorism.

She presided over the health department during a time of rising enrollment in Medi-Cal and tightening state budgets. Her resignation came about a week after Schwarzenegger proposed a budget that capped and cut back a number of Medi-Cal programs.