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Rep. Thissen announces proposal to restructure the Department of Human Services

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Period of transition a good time to make DHS more transparent and accountable to Minnesotans

SAINT PAUL, MINN – State Representative Paul Thissen (DFL – Minneapolis) announced a proposal today to restructure the Department of Human Services in order to provide greater transparency and accountability to the people of Minnesota.

Thissen has been working on a proposal for several months, but noted that the period of transition to a new Commissioner at the Department of Human Services is a good time to begin a conversation about how to ensure the Department of Human Services is best serving the people of Minnesota.

“I want to thank Commissioner Jesson for her years of leadership at DHS and welcome Emily Piper Johnson to her new role,” said Thissen. “The transition to a new Department of Human Services Commissioner is an excellent chance to rethink governance of a department that covers many of the most important and most sensitive services state government provides. I look forward to working with the Governor and Commissioner Piper Johnson on our path forward.”

Thissen notes that the scope of DHS covers a wide array of issues that have become challenging for the department to manage as a single entity. For instance, there is nothing that links delivery of health care to poor and disabled Minnesotans to the operation of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program except that the two are housed in a single agency. 

“These programs are too important to be managed from crisis to crisis with accountability resting with a single individual,” said Thissen.

Rep. Thissen will introduce a proposal to be considered in the upcoming legislative session to redesign the governance of the Department of Human Services.  Thissen’s proposal includes:

Dividing the Department into five separate operational agencies

Thissen’s proposal would divide DHS into up to five separate operational agencies. The proposal would re-organize existing DHS staff as to not add additional taxpayer costs.

·         A Department of Health Care Services with jurisdiction over operations related to MinnesotaCare, Medical Assistance, Chemical Dependency and Mental Health Services. 

·         A Department of Aging and Disability Services with jurisdiction over those programs.

·         A Department of Human Services with jurisdiction over operations related to child welfare and childcare assistance programs, income assistance programs, and social services grants. The so-called MFIP Child-Only Program will also rest in this Department.

·         A Department of Forensic Services with jurisdiction over St. Peter State Hospital, the Forensic Nursing Home and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program

·         A Department of Direct Care Services with jurisdiction over the Anoka Treatment Facility and State Operated Services.

Cross-agency discussion will be facilitated by a Coordinating Board including the five commissioners and representatives of Minnesota counties who provide many of these services.

“Most of these agencies will still be among the largest agencies in state government even after the reform is implemented,” said Thissen.  “But each agency will have increased public transparency and direct accountability to the governor and the legislature and – more importantly – the people of Minnesota.  And the legislation will require that the reform shall be completed in a cost neutral manner with no increase in the number of employees.”

Repositioning of Functional Services:

Thissen’s proposal would reposition functional services in order to improve efficiency and ability to meet the needs of Minnesotans.

·         Our Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) for adults will be transferred to the Department of Employment and Economic Development.  The program’s purpose is to get individuals back to work – just like our unemployment and retraining programs. The services should be developed and implemented together.

·         Creation of an Office of Eligibility Services which will conduct eligibility determinations for all health and human services programs as well as education and housing services provided by the state.  This will increase expertise and the ability to make sure Minnesotans are receiving seamless access to all available services.

·         All health care facility licensing (which currently is divided between the Department of Health and Department of Human Services causing challenges for providers) will be reassigned to the Minnesota Department of Health.

·         Background check services for all agencies will be reassigned to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension who is already involved in the process.

·         The Office of Inspector General will be established as a standalone, conflict-of-interest free office outside the Department of Human Services.

·         Health Plan Oversight which is currently divided among three departments will be reassigned to a single department.

Thissen looks forward to gathering input from the Administration and other legislators before the 2016 session begins in March. 


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