116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The state is conducting an assessment of its public health and human services agencies to “align and integrate programs, practices and policies.”
Though a merger between the agencies into a health and human services department is not confirmed at this stage, it is a goal of the head of both agencies that those departments work more closely together to conduct business more effectively and efficiently, according to state legislators.
“Ultimately better alignment will lead to improved outcomes for individuals, communities and the state,” Sarah Ekstrand, Iowa Department of Public Health spokeswoman, said in an email.
Over the next nine months, the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Department of Human Services is conducting a health and human services alignment assessment “to improve delivery of services and most effectively leverage funding.”
Public Consulting Group, a Boston-based public sector consulting firm, has been brought on as a contractor to conduct the assessment. The state will pay the group $630,550 for its work, according to the state contract.
Updates on the assessment will be posted on hhsalignment.iowa.gov.
“Between IDPH and DHS, the connections are numerous and, in many cases, the same families access similar services with no clear pathway to connect them that reaches across departments,” according to a news release. “The work IDPH and DHS can do to wrap services around a family to ensure better outcomes is significant in terms of impact.”
In an email to staff from Director Kelly Garcia, who oversees both agencies, she said the opportunity “is a joint effort between our departments” and not a unilateral takeover.
“We know change is coming — recommendations for ’the how’ and ’the what’ are the pieces of the puzzle (Public Consulting Group) will help identify,” Garcia wrote.
The assessment will identify potential for expanded funding opportunities as well as better access to services and easier navigation of the system for Iowans, Ekstrand said in an email.
That effort includes identifying ways to create an integrated mental and behavioral health system, for example. Substance abuse prevention and treatment programs currently are under IDPH, but the mental and behavioral health system is under the purview of DHS, said Liz Mathis, D-Hiawatha, ranking member of the state Senate Human Resources Committee.
“I’m firmly behind (the agencies being more effective), but I want to see what contractor comes up with in order to make sure it's a good decision,” Mathis said.
Public Consulting Group is expected to identify connection points across departments by August. By November, the consulting group will collaborate with state leadership and will “lead implementation planning,” according to the project timeline on the state’s alignment assessment website.
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