(The Center Square) – Health and human services agencies in Iowa would function under a single leadership structure if a proposal from a hired third-party evaluator comes to fruition.
The final change package presented Thursday is the result of work done by Public Consulting Group of Boston for the Iowa Department of Public Health and Iowa Department of Human Services. As constructed in a timeline to align the two agencies into one, the next steps include building an administrative foundation by June 30, paving the way for a July 1 enactment of state legislation officially establishing a unified department of health and human services.
Iowans paid Public Consulting Group to complete a $700,000 contract with the departments from March 2021 to September 2022 for several plans, reports and meetings.
The final change package and functional organizational chart place the agencies under a single leadership structure to strengthen coordination among existing services, provide Iowans more comprehensive services, gain efficiencies and better leverage resources to reinvest in the system, the departments said in a news release.
“Leveraging the resources, tools, and specialized expertise in both departments will allow us to better focus on overall population health and community well-being for all Iowans,” the release said. “The goal is to establish a true health and human services system that addresses the full continuum from prevention to intervention.”
There are no plans for layoffs or discontinuing programs or services, the release said.
“This is a major milestone in a monumental effort to really think holistically about how we serve Iowans. Our teams have put in a lot of effort – amidst a global pandemic with a lot of lessons learned on the gaps in our system – to lay out a path to a better system,” Kelly Garcia, the director of the Iowa Department of Human Services and Iowa Department of Public Health, said in a released statement. “The information we’re sharing today is the culmination of countless conversations, listening sessions, and feedback from around the state. I am proud of the recommendations put forward and am excited to begin the real work of bringing our agencies together. Keep in mind, this work is just beginning and we will work closely with, and solicit feedback from our clients, stakeholders and legislators throughout the months and years ahead.”
A director of Health and Human Services would lead the combined agency, which will include Administration, Strategic Operations, Disability and Behavioral Health, Community Access, Medicaid, State-Operated Facilities, Family Wellbeing and Protection, Public Health and Compliance departments, with cross-functional supports like clinical expertise, communications, contracting, equity, quality assurance, performance improvement, policy and professional development helping facilitate interdepartmental coordination, the functional organizational chart shows.
Department leadership said in a summary document that they anticipate beginning to build the new department’s administrative foundation and expanding the functional organizational chart so staff understand whom they will report to in the new structure. A draft House bill includes fiscal year 2023 appropriations to fund the departments’ transition without interruption of services.
Beginning in July, the departments plan to identify, scope, and plan a sequence of projects, with staff engagement, to begin implementing the priority recommendations in the final change package and the new reporting structure. Full integration of the agencies could take years, the document said.
The departments’ staff have met with local public health and community partners, stakeholders and the public over nearly two years to discuss how to unify services, the release said.
NAMI Iowa Executive Director Peggy Huppert told The Center Square in an emailed statement Thursday that the organization is supportive of the alignment. NAMI is an acronym for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
“Behavioral health care combines mental health and substance use treatments and services, which makes sense because they are often co-occurring conditions,” she said. “Suicide prevention, crisis services, child welfare, children’s mental health, foster and adoptive services, adult mental health and disability services and Medicaid all belong under one ‘roof,’ and now they will be.”