DHS decision on contracts has some legislators raising questions

Jul 10, 2017

Department of Human Services director Chris Jones.
Credit DHS

Some Legislators have raised questions about the Department of Human Services’ decision to end contracts with two Red River Valley organizations that provide recreational services for clients with developmental disabilities.

Red River Human Services Foundation of Fargo and Listen, Inc. from Grand Forks each had received two year contracts worth $75,000 each. But the two providers’ contracts were not renewed.

DHS director Chris Jones said in one section of the Department’s budget bill, DHS was told to find $650,000 in contract reductions.

"It was initially in the budget, prior to me starting," Jones said. "It wasn't until the end of the Legislative process when the $650,000 was removed, and we were asked to look at contracts that we felt we could reduce."

The Legislators raising questions believed there was legislative intent that those contracts needed to continue. But a memo from Legislative Council said the final budget bill did not include any specific provisions that required it.

Jones said DHS still needs to find more savings in contracts.

"At the end of the day, we have to provide a service," Jones said. "Those things we are required to provide, we will provide. But we need to look for more efficiencies."

Also, some Lawmakers believed these kinds of reductions came on orders of  Gov. Doug Burgum.

"I've made the Governor's office aware of which contracts have been cut," Jones said. "But specifically, there was no directive."

Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks) said he understands DHS is doing its prioritizing based on the budget language.

"But it certainly, in my estimation, is not the prioritizing that I would have done," Holmberg said. "I would hope they (DHS) would give greater deference to where the Legislature was coming from, and do other reductions."