Thursday, May 11, 2017
Pennsylvania Governor Pushes State Merger of Departments of Aging, Health, Human Services and Drug & Alcohol
I'm on a crash course of "catching up" now that I am back in Pennsylvania, having been away on sabbatical for the last academic year and living (mostly) in Arizona. On May 9 I participated in a "Day on the Hill" event in Harrisburg, sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association in Pennsylvania.
To kick off the afternoon sessions, Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne, along with Deputy Secretary of Health Corey Coleman, spoke in support of Pennsylvania Governor Wolf's plan to merge operations of four separate state departments, that of Aging, Health, Human Services (formerly Public Welfare) and Drug and Alcohol Programs into a single department called Department of Health and Human Services. The timeline for this decision is looming, as the Pennsylvania Legislature's budget session is scheduled to end on June 30.
Secretary Osborne pointed out that overlapping programs between the different departments complicate the ability of the state to serve related interests. For example, "protective services" are administered by separate units for children, disabled adults, and older adults. While acknowledging cost savings from consolidation is certainly one goal -- as the state is in an on-going budget crisis -- Secretary Osborne expressed her strong support for a clearer organizational chart, as a way to clarify and meet the needs of Pennsylvanians on common issues.
The Alzheimer's Association is not taking a position on the consolidation, instead focusing on the state's accountability and continued or enhanced dedication to serving impaired Pennsylvanians and their families, especially caregiver family members.
For more on Pennsylvania Tom Wolf's budget plan as it affects seniors, see the PA website on the Budget Documents. And as anyone knows who follows Pennsylvania legislative sessions, the real language and details are likely to emerge in the wee hours of the session, following a lot of horse-trading.