Panel to look at human services reform

Panel to look at human services reform

(from Minnesota Department of Human Services)

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has announced the appointment of 11 Minnesotans to serve on the newly created Blue Ribbon Commission on Health and Human Services. Established by the 2019 Minnesota Legislature, the group will help state leaders craft a vision for long-term systemic reforms and identify near-term strategies to improve health outcomes, increase access, reduce inequities and disparities, find administrative efficiencies, expand program integrity and steward taxpayer dollars. 

The appointments were announced September 20. Walz thanked the appointees for their willingness to serve and highlighted their shared commitment to ensuring that state health and human services programs are both effective and efficient in supporting the health and well-being of all Minnesotans. 

“Minnesotans rely on our health and human services programs to live full and productive lives. That is why I am looking to this Blue Ribbon Commission to make recommendations on how to improve outcomes, control costs in the short run and plan for the needs of the future,” Walz said. “With this public private partnership, we are relying on lived experience of program participants and expertise of industry members to boost the impact of our work and ensure that our resources are invested wisely.” 

The appointments are announced after a series of issues have dogged human services, including the resignation of former Commissioner Tony Lourey and others in leadership posts, claims of misspent funds and allegations of poor treatment of staff. Some state lawmakers have called for splitting up the department. 

The Blue Ribbon Commission, passed into law by legislators and co-chaired by Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm and Department of Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead, will produce a report by October 2020 that includes recommendations for specific health and human services cost savings. The governor is charging the group to do so in the context of broad, forward-thinking recommendations that will provide program efficiencies and produce healthier and fuller lives for all Minnesotans at a sustainable cost. 

According to Malcolm, the commission’s discussions will not be limited to state government services. “Sustainable improvements will not come through cost shifts that may fix one budget problem but create another,” Malcolm said. “This work needs to be informed by what we know about the real cost drivers of health, and the broader context of community conditions that can make it easier or harder for people to make better choices and for programs to deliver effective services.” 

“This commission represents a new opportunity to design and implement programs and services that make a real difference for Minnesota residents and communities, while also maximizing the return on every dollar invested,” Harpstead said. “We want to find ways to promote better health and fuller lives at a price we can afford – in that order.” 

The appointees are Gayle Kvenvold, CEO, LeadingAge Minnesota; Sue Schettle, CEO, ARRM; Sida Ly-Xiong, national program manager, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Jennifer DuPuis, associate director of health and human service, Fond du Lac Nation; Debra Krause, vice president, Minnesota Health Action Group; Lisa Weed, executive vice president, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota; Jennifer DeCubellis, director of Human Services and Public Health Department, Hennepin County; Sheila Kiscaden, county commissioner, Olmsted County; Nona Ferguson, senior vice president for Economic Assistance and Aging Services, Wilder Foundation; Shauna Reitmeier, CEO, Northwestern Mental Health Center; and Julia Freeman, senior organizer, Voices for Racial Justice. 

Legislative appointees to the commission are Representatives Tina Liebling and Joe Schomacker; and Senators Rich Draheim and Matt Klein.