Avula tapped as Va. social services commissioner
Former vaccine liaison accepts Youngkin appointment
Dr. Danny Avula, the director of Richmond and Henrico County’s health districts and the state’s former COVID vaccine coordinator, has accepted Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s appointment to become commissioner of the state’s Department of Social Services, the health districts announced Friday.
In January 2021, Avula was given responsibility for organizing the state’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, which at the time was lagging behind the rest of the nation due to extreme demand and low supplies of vaccine doses. Avula became a familiar face at then-Gov. Ralph Northam’s press conferences, providing updates on the efforts to get Virginians vaccinated against the coronavirus. As of October 2021, the state was 10th in the nation for percentage of population vaccinated.
“I’m incredibly excited to serve Virginia in this new capacity with the Department of Social Services; so much of the support that ultimately impacts families’ health and resilience lies within DSS,” Avula said in a statement Friday. “That said, it’s bittersweet to close out my time with Richmond and Henrico Health Districts. It’s been life-giving to see the dedication of my team and all they’ve been able to accomplish; I’m in awe of them and am proud to have worked alongside them. Richmond and Henrico communities are left in capable and caring hands.”
Avula stepped down as vaccine coordinator just before the end of Northam’s term in January, returning to his position as director of the health districts, which he has led since 2016. He has previously served as a member of the State Board of Social Services and as chair from 2017 to 2019. Avula received degrees in medicine and public health from Virginia Commonwealth University and Johns Hopkins University, and he completed his undergraduate education at the University of Virginia.
He replaces Duke Storen as commissioner of social services, which oversees child welfare, workforce programs, licensing of child care and adult living facilities, refugee assistance, benefit programs and other initiatives focused on easing poverty, abuse and neglect. Dr. Melissa Viray will be the acting director of the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, having served as deputy director since 2017.