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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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