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Grace Hou Named Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services


February 20, 2019 | by Emma Olson

Good news for people with disabilities in Illinois

February 20, 2019 – Governor Pritzker announced that Grace Hou, president of Woods Fund Chicago, has been selected as the new Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), pending confirmation of her appointment by the Illinois State Senate. Ms. Hou previously served as an Assistant Secretary at IDHS, and has a longstanding working relationship with Access Living. We are so pleased to see a disability ally in the Secretary position. Grace is known as a deeply committed advocate for racial and immigrant justice. Her bio, as shared by the Governor’s office yesterday, is as follows:

Grace Hou will serve as Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS).* Hou is currently the president of Woods Fund Chicago, a grant-making foundation that funds organizations that draw on the power of communities to fight the brutality of poverty and structural racism. From 2003 to 2012, she served as the Assistant Secretary at the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) where she was responsible for the oversight of the agency’s six program areas. During that time, she was a key leader in the creation and implementation of the state’s nationally acclaimed Immigrant Integration New American’s Executive Order. Hou previously served as executive director of Chinese Mutual Aid Association (CMAA) and has been a vocal advocate for immigrant rights. She received her Master of Public Administration from the University of Illinois Springfield and her Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

* Appointment pending confirmation by the Illinois Senate.

We view Ms. Hou’s appointment as an important recognition of the need for leadership with a strong intersectional viewpoint in Illinois’ human services, one that reflects the great diversity of our state. We’re looking forward to working with her.

Additionally, last month the Governor selected Theresa Eagleson as the Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), which is the State agency overseeing Medicaid. Ms. Eagleson previously ran the Office of Medicaid Innovation at the University of Illinois, and prior worked in senior positions at HFS, where she worked with many disability organizations.