WASHINGTON — Charmaine Yoest, the top communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services, is leaving HHS for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, three sources with knowledge of the move told STAT.
She is the latest administration official to leave for the drug policy office, which has seen significant staff turnover throughout the year and especially following the withdrawal of Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) from the confirmation process to lead the agency.
Yoest began at HHS under former secretary Tom Price, whose undoing came after a series of reports about his extensive use of taxpayer dollars for private jet travel. Her appointment at HHS drew complaints from the left in part because of her views on abortion and her past work at the Family Research Council and other conservative groups.
Secretary Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive who was sworn in to replace Price last month, is likely to fill Yoest’s position and a number of others with personnel from his own orbit and that of Assistant Secretary Eric Hargan, who ran the agency in an acting capacity after Price’s resignation.
Yoest’s move to ONDCP follows last week’s announcement that White House deputy chief of staff Jim Carroll would take over as the nation’s “drug czar.”
Carroll, a lawyer who has previously worked in the West Wing and the White House budget office but does not have experience in drug policy, is expected to bring with him an executive assistant from the West Wing.
The White House has used consecutive budget blueprints to propose cutting ONDCP funding and relocating many of the grant programs housed within the agency — a move Congress has resisted but that is thought to have more internal support at the agency under Carroll’s leadership.
Yoest did not respond to a request for comment from STAT, and HHS declined to comment.