Major Senior, Health Advocates Endorse Governor Wolf’s Unified Department of Health and Human Services

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf announced today that a broad coalition of advocates for seniors, recovery, people with disabilities, and other health and human services populations is speaking out in support of the unification of the departments of Health, Human Services, Aging, and Drug and Alcohol Programs into one Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“Having the support of this broad coalition of senior and human services advocates strengthens my administration’s efforts to break down silos, increase government efficiency, and listen across party lines and ideologies to develop a practical solution of integrating these vital human services agencies into one unified Department of Health and Human Services,” Governor Wolf said. “I applaud these organizations for sharing their ideas as we move through this process and for their support as we make the new department a reality for the people of Pennsylvania.”

These groups include: Rehabilitation & Community Providers Association (RCPA), The Arc of Pennsylvania, The Alliance of PA Councils, PA Health Access Network (PHAN), Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging (P4A), Pennsylvania Homecare Association, County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP), Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania,  Equality Pennsylvania, Commonwealth Foundation, Alzheimer’s Association – Greater PA Chapter, Alzheimer’s Association – Delaware Valley Chapter, Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, and Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability (PAR).

Governor Wolf has worked closely with the four departments and myriad advocates to identify and break down silos and reimagine how the state delivers such critical services. A website — https://www.governor.pa.gov/health-and-human-services/ was launched in April to help all interested parties learn more about this initiative by reviewing draft legislation, diving deep into the HHS draft organizational charts, hearing from the prime sponsors in the House and Senate who proposed the legislation that will lead us to the implementation of this new agency, and, most importantly, weighing in with thoughts and ideas. The site is continually updated as the unification process continues, including the addition of these advocates’ statements of support:

Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks)

“I’ve talked with many constituents about unification, specifically about what benefits will come from merging these departments, and I find they are generally receptive to the idea.  With this legislation comes an opportunity provide vital services at consistent levels even under severe budget constraints.”

Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland)

“I am willing to work with any governor from any party to implement beneficial reforms like this, to make our state government more efficient and effective in delivering vital services, and to save money for our hardworking taxpayers.”

Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging (P4A)

“Members of the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging (P4A) recently voted to support the Governor’s proposal to unify the four agencies. “P4A supports any effort to improve services to seniors,” said Rebecca May-Cole, P4A’s Executive Director, “we anticipate working with the Governor and the legislature moving forward.” P4A represents Pennsylvania’s 52 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), which serve as a focal point of services for the commonwealth’s aging population.”

Pennsylvania Homecare Association

“Our members look forward to working with the Wolf Administration to deliver on the governor’s promise of improving services to the citizens of our state by creating a new Health and Human Services Department.  Representing more than 700 organizations that believe the best care is coordinated, consumer-centered and home-based, PHA is committed to engaging in this process of streamlining both public services and provider regulations, which right now are frequently contradictory and cause barriers to delivering the best care.  Whether it is personal care, medical care or end of life care (hospice) delivered in people’s homes, our members must abide by rules and policies of the departments of Aging, Human Services and Health.  By unifying these entities, we are hopeful that less time will be spent on maneuvering different department’s rules and more time on continuing to provide quality in-home care and support.”

Rehabilitation & Community Providers Association (RCPA)

“Governor Wolf has proposed that government should be more streamlined and efficient, save money where possible, and provide better service to stakeholders. That is something we should support. RCPA represents a large and diverse group of community providers that cuts across silos and traditional system and service lines. Through unification, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) can do the same.”

The Arc of Pennsylvania

“The Arc of Pennsylvania promotes the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community across their lifetimes. Governor Wolf shares that commitment. His thoughtful, inclusive interpretation of streamlined services for people with disabilities through the unified Department of Health and Human Services makes sense, and The Arc of PA fully supports the Governor’s proposal to construct a system that makes it easier for people with disabilities and their families to navigate and access critical services. Access equals success for people with disabilities and their families and the new Department of Health and Human Services will increase access ensuring the availability of integrated, less costly, community based services.”

The Alliance of Pennsylvania Councils

“The Alliance of Pennsylvania Councils is pleased to offer our support for the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services’ (Department) Unification plan. The Alliance of Pennsylvania Councils is a 501(c)(3) community-based organization incorporated to capitalize on the competencies of four regions 501(c)(3) community-based corporations that, together, support statewide health-related programs and manage long-standing community-based networks of health providers across 67 counties in Pennsylvania. We believe the Department’s unification plan will improve the delivery of services and enhance efficiencies.”

PA Health Access Network (PHAN)

“Unification achieves streamlined access to key services for consumers. Instead of four doors, there will be only one. The efficiency and alignment it brings means that the new department can be more responsive and provide more coordinate care to vulnerable populations. We are also confident in the proposed department’s new leadership, as Teresa Miller has been a tireless consumer advocate,” said Antoinette Kraus, Executive Director.

County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP)

“The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania views the unification of human services agencies as an opportunity to assure best practices for service delivery to clients and their families. Counties have historically used an integrated approach in their delivery of human services and look forward to areas where we may expand our partnership with state government.”

Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania

“Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania supports the Administration’s proposed HHS unification because we believe if done correctly, it will make government operate more efficiently. More importantly, unification will make it easier for individuals and families to access needed behavioral health services with the ultimate goal of moving public dollars from department operations to delivery of services,” said Sue Walther, Executive Director.

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center

“The Pennsylvania Budget Policy and Center supports the idea of consolidating four departments into a new Department of Health and Human Service as a way to make government more efficient while also making critical services more accessible to citizens. We are encouraged that the administration intends to carry out this consolidation in a way that does not lead to layoffs of state workers and, especially, that does not cost the state some of the experienced and knowledgeable workers who make existing programs work and whose expertise is most needed during a time of transition.”

Equality Pennsylvania

“Health and Human Services departmental unification presents an opportunity for the Commonwealth to embed inclusion as part of its framework.  A consolidated department opens doors for shared learning as well as improved efficiency and coordination of services.  This is not just good governance from on operations standpoint, but great for those served by Commonwealth programs. LGBTQ people and other marginalized populations experience health disparities at alarming rates.  With emphasis on improving utilization of resources and empowering leaders to better address disparate health outcomes, Governor Wolf’s proposed unification structure shows commitment to better serving the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians,” said Kell Wilkinson, Policy Director.

Commonwealth Foundation

“We agree with the Governor that Pennsylvania needs to reinvent government. The streamlining of four agencies into the Department of Health and Human Services provides opportunities to eliminate bureaucratic redundancies, implement programmatic and structural reforms, and ensure more Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and move from dependency to self-sufficiency.”

Alzheimer’s Association – Greater PA Chapter, Delaware Valley Chapter

“The creation of a new Department of Health & Human Services provides a unique opportunity to address the impact dementia has on millions of Pennsylvanians. The decision to dedicate staffing to the implementation of Pennsylvania’s bipartisan Alzheimer’s disease and Related Disorders State Plan is an important decision which will have benefits for years to come,” said Gail Roddie-Hamlin, President & CEO, Alzheimer’s Association- Greater Pa Chapter.

“With the number of older adults in Pennsylvania, our seniors represent a unique voice which needs to be heard. I applaud the creation of a Commissioner on Aging position which will serve a vital role, advocating on their behalf,” said Wendy Campbell, President & CEO, Alzheimer’s Association- Delaware Valley Chapter.

Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability (PAR)

“PAR envisions a service provider community that is an effective political, economic, and social force that ensures a person-centered, viable, quality service system that betters the lives of people with intellectual disability and/or autism. We support the unification of Pennsylvania’s human services agencies because we believe the new HHS shares that vision and will be an effective force to ensure all people with an intellectual disability and/or autism will receive the services they need in a silo-free, person-focused manner.”