Corbett had resisted implementing it, citing the state's shrinking tax revenues and strained budget, which had led to painful cuts in most departments. The delay even led to a pointed exchange between DiGirolamo and a senior administration appointee during a hearing on the issue last fall.
"I'm going to fight for this," DiGirolamo told Charles Zogby, Corbett's budget secretary, at the time. "I'm just letting you know that."
Corbett's office announced the decision in a release late Tuesday.
To head the department, the governor has selected Gary Tennis, former chief of the legislation unit in the Philadelphia's District Attorney's Office.
It was not immediately clear what Tennis' salary would be or how many people would work in the new department - although DiGirolamo said it would absorb about 55 staffers from the existing Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Programs in the Department of Health.
Also unclear Tuesday was what had happened to change Corbett's mind about creating the department.
DiGirolamo attributed the delay to logistics.
"I worked with Gov. Corbett when he was attorney general, and I know he's really committed to getting people with addiction the help they need," he said. "Once we figured out the best way to implement the bill and how to handle the amount of money that it would take to do it, he [Corbett] was glad to get this done."
DiGirolamo estimated that the administrative start-up cost for the department would be less than $1 million, and said that it would be responsible for distributing to counties an estimated $200 million for addiction-treatment programs.
The initial expense, in the Bucks legislator's opinion, is worth it. He believes it will help target the proper treatment to those who need it, and go a long way toward keeping them addiction-free and reducing law enforcement costs.
"This is about the importance and benefits of treatment," said DiGirolamo, adding: "It will help save lives."
The last time the state created a new cabinet-level agency was in 1995, when the Department of Environmental Resources was split into two agencies: the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Contact staff writer Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or email@example.com.