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Governor to Cut DHSS in Two

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Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced yesterday (Tuesday) that he’s splitting the state’s health department in two. The state is soliciting questions about the reorganization, you can send yours to DHSSreorg@alaska.gov.

He and Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum say the department is too big, too unwieldy and needs sharpened focus to better serve Alaskans. 

Crum says his department has more than 3500 employees, the largest in the state.

We are operating under the tyranny of time. There is just not enough time and bandwidth in the day for the commissioner’s office and staff to do anything other than move from fire to fire and crisis to crisis. 

Dunleavy’s plan is to create two new state agencies through an executive order that has not yet been drafted. 

One would be the Department of Family and Community Services; it’s focus would be protecting vulnerable Alaskans. That means the Division of Juvenile Justice, the Office of Children’s Services, the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and the Alaska Pioneer Homes management would be nested under it. 

The second agency will be a Department of Health. That department will include the Senior & Disabilities Services, Behavioral Health, Public Health, Public Assistance and Health Care Services divisions. 

Beyond those agency divisions, it’s not clear how the reorganization will work. The governor is still working out the details of the executive order and he says he doesn’t know how much it would cost. 

“We don’t feel there really is going to be a cost. As a matter of fact we believe that over time.. The division, probably a short period of time, the dividing out of these two departments will result in better services delivered which will then result in - we think - more efficiencies and less call upon the legislature, for example, for more resources to patch holes in the organization of the department because of less oversight, less management.”

But, he says he doesn’t think anyone working for the health department currently needs to worry about keeping their jobs. 

We don’t see any need for reapplication, the individuals that are in the programs, in the divisions will stay where they are. Will do the jobs that they are. 

It’s not clear how long this process will take. According to documentation on the governor’s website -- if his executive order goes into effect, he will need to appoint a new commissioner, who will then need to be confirmed by the legislature. 

The state is soliciting questions about the reorganization, you can send yours to DHSSreorg@alaska.gov.