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Lawmakers introduce bill to consolidate state health, human services agencies

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Lawmakers are paving a legislative path for four existing state agencies to become one – a goal that Gov. Tom Wolf outlined in his budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts in July.

A House bill unveiled last week would unify the state departments of Aging, Health, Human Services, and Drug and Alcohol Programs.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland). Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) plans to introduce a companion bill in the Senate, according to a news release from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

While all four agencies today are providing high-quality services, the state can do better by creating a no-wrong-door approach for Pennsylvanians, Bloom said in a memorandum in support of the legislation.

Certain programs, for example, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Women Infants and Children Program, are similar in nature but overseen by different departments.

"As a long-time proponent of responsible consolidation of state agencies, I am very pleased that the governor and my legislative colleagues from both sides of the aisle are showing serious interest in this positive initiative," Bloom said.

The Wolf administration has been discussing the possibility of consolidation since last summer. A combined agency promises to eliminate duplicative processes and boost state service levels, and that, in turn, should reduce costs to taxpayers at a time when the state is facing a sizable budget shortfall, the administration said.

The combined department would be known as the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Mary Davis April 22, 2017 6:34 am

This bill of consolidation does not affect me as my income level is very much over most of our Seniors, but I do attend Senior Center in Shippensburg. I have been informed that the real possibility of shutting down programs that affect Meals on Wheels, and meals at the center, closing of centers. I realize they are trying to save money, but they are harming our seniors who have no where else to go!!!!!!

Concerned April 21, 2017 10:28 am

I hope Rep. Bloom reconsiders. As has been stated repeatedly throughout the process, there is no cost savings and only hoped for efficiencies. The other factor that hasn't been addressed is how much this action would cost. My understanding is the name change from Public Welfare to Human Services cost over a million dollars. Lastly, any plan would diminish services being offered to individuals with drug and alcohol issues as well as the elderly. This is an extremely bad idea that should not be pursued.

George April 21, 2017 9:39 am

This consolidation will fracture far more programs and lines of communication than what is brought together. It gives the appearance of fiscal responsibility but there are no savings. It will cost the state millions just to change all of the letterhead, websites, etc. This is about other agencies getting their hands on the lottery money to plug their budget holes. DDAP and Aging functions and advocacy will get lost in this, make no mistake.

vince April 21, 2017 5:55 am

It will be interesting to see how this plays out given that one Titan of the House, Gene DiGirolamo, feels that the Commonwealth's efforts re drug & alcohol abuse will be diffused in a larger department.