Minnesota’s largest and most-scrutinized state agency will be split up in the coming years as the result of legislative action meant to reduce bureaucracy and costly errors. the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ massive Direct Care and Treatment division will spin off into its own agency and take its roughly 5,000 employees with it.
Additionally, a new Department of Children, Youth and Families created by the Legislature this year will take more employees away from DHS.
State lawmakers talked for years about breaking up the DHS, their discussions intensifying after the agency made a string of costly financial mistakes and received scathing reviews from the state’s legislative auditor. Some felt that the agency, which has more than 7,000 employees and an annual budget that exceeds $20 billion, was too large to effectively manage.
DHS serves more than 1.5 million Minnesotans, including the state’s most vulnerable populations, through a vast array of programs.
“As we’ve talked about whether or not DHS it too big and should it be separated, I’ve come to realize that it would probably be an advantage to have a smaller agency,” said DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead.
The creation of the new Department of Direct Care and Treatment takes effect Jan. 1, 2025.
Senate Human Services Committee chairman John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin), said he believes both the DHS and the new Department of Direct Care and Treatment will benefit from the separation by becoming more “nimble” and focused on their own operations.
Republican Sen. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), who also supported the separation, struck a more skeptical tone about whether the split will improve stewardship of taxpayer funds.
“It’s the governor’s influence on all his departments, and by virtue of the commissioners he chooses, that really decides the outcomes of any department,” said Abeler. “I think merely rearranging some of the duties may have a huge effect or it may be minimal. It’s still all up to the administration to make it work.”
The Direct Care and Treatment division currently within DHS operates a specialized behavioral health care system that includes psychiatric hospitals, substance abuse treatment facilities, group homes for people with disabilities and sex offender treatment facilities. That system is comparable in size to the CentraCare health care system in greater Minnesota, according to Harpstead.
Once separated, Harpstead said the new Department of Direct Care and Treatment will look much more like a hospital system with a CEO reporting to a board. Marshall Smith, the current CEO of the division, will stay on to lead the department.
The Department of Human Services and the Direct Care and Treatment agency will keep their respective employees, Harpstead said.
(Source: Star Tribune)