Wolf Administration Launches Health and Human Services Unification Informational Website

Harrisburg, PA — Today, the Wolf Administration announced the launch of a website that details the proposed unification of the departments of Health, Human Services, Drug and Alcohol Programs, and Aging into the new Department of Health and Human Services.

“Delivering public health, social, and human services to Pennsylvanians in the most efficient and effective way requires innovation, creative thinking, and practical solutions,” Governor Wolf said. “That’s why I proposed integrating the departments of Aging, Drug & Alcohol Programs, Health, and Human Services into a new, unified Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).

Over the past several months, Governor Wolf has worked closely with each of these four agencies to identify and break down silos and reimagine how the commonwealth delivers these critical services. The website offers myriad information to learn more about this initiative by reviewing draft legislation, diving deep into the HHS draft organizational charts, and giving the public an opportunity to weigh in with their own thoughts and ideas. The site will continue to be updated as the unification process moves along.

Governor Wolf first outlined the unification as part of his 2017-18 budget proposal. State Senator Judy Schwank (D, Berks County) and Representative Stephen Bloom (R, Cumberland County) have announced their intent to co-sponsor legislation that, if passed, will make the unification law.

As prime sponsors in their respective chambers, both Schwank and Bloom provide insight on the merger on the new webpages.

“In a time of limited resources and ever increasing needs for human services, state government must work continually to streamline delivery and reduce costs,” Senator Schwank said. “The status quo is no longer acceptable.”

“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,” Representative Bloom said.

The comprehensive website, located at governor.pa.gov/hhs, provides details about the unified agency’s deputates, or divisions, including primary functions and organizational charts.

Highlights include:

  • The creation of a cabinet-level position focused on coordinating state efforts relating to substance use and addiction policy;
  • No additional Lottery Fund dollars are transferred to offset General Fund expenditures as part of the unification and Lottery Fund revenues will continue to be solely dedicated to support senior programs;
  • Consolidation of front office functions at each agency, including budgeting, procurement and contract management, auditing, and federal reporting;
  • Rather than going to different places for eligibility assessments relating to TANF, LIHEAP, MA, SNAP, PACE, and WIC, individuals will now be able to determine eligibility for each of these at their local County Assistance Office.
  • Providers who are currently subject to multiple inspections and audits will now have one point of contact, the Office of Health Care Quality & Licensure, allowing the commonwealth to reduce bureaucratic hurdles, provide clearer and more cohesive guidance, save taxpayer dollars, and give providers the opportunity to spend more time delivering quality services to Pennsylvanians in need.
  • The Office of Mental Health & Substance Use Disorder Services will improve the capacity of and coordination among mental and behavioral health and substance use and addiction programs to provide more efficient, integrated services and systems for Pennsylvanians struggling with one or more related conditions.

“Creating a new, unified Department of Health & Human Services will dramatically improve our ability to deliver services that will improve lives while reducing costs to taxpayers,” Governor Wolf said. “Too often, an individual is served by too many different agencies, and we all know navigating the different layers of government can be complex and cumbersome.”

The following are just a few examples of the key ways an integrated agency can provide an easier way for citizens to interact with the commonwealth and obtain the services they need. Details on each are provided on the new web content.

·         Enhancing state efforts to fight back against the heroin and opioid epidemic.

·         Bolstering senior benefits and programs.

·         Reducing complexity and confusion for seniors and those with disabilities.

·         Reducing red tape for providers and non-profits subject to regulation.

The website was introduced to all affected agency staff in late April.

To view the site, visit governor.pa.gov/hhs.