Redesigning social service delivery in North Dakota

Jan 4, 2018

State human services director Chris Jones.
Credit Dept of Human Services

The director of the North Dakota Human Services Department is updating interim Legislative committees on his department’s efforts to redesign the delivery of social services in North Dakota.

Chris Jones briefed the interim Human Services Committee and the interim Health Services Committee.

"Everybody (in Human Services) is doing what they've been told and taught in the process," Jones told the Health Services Committee. "Some of those processes were there even before DHS existed."

Jones said now, the goal is to break down "those silos."

"It's opening up everyone's eyes," Jones said.

Rep. Kathy Hogan (D-Fargo) chairs the interim Human Services Committee…and is a member if the Health Services panel. She said it is a complex process.

"You've kind of taken the city apart," Hogan told Jones. "Now you have to rebuild it."

The Health Services Committee is studying the early intervention system for children with developmental disabilities. Roxane Romaick of Bismarck is a member of an early intervention system task force. She said she hopes the early intervention system could be a test case for human services reinvention.

"These are the sickest, most vulnerable children in North Dakota," Romanek said. "They're kids with congenital heart defects, with pre-diagnosed conditions. They're very sick."

Carl Young of Bismarck has an adopted son who suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome. He said while his experience has been mostly positive, there are challenges.

"We've struggled to get our son services for the last 16 years," Young said. "It's no fault of the people in the systems -- but it is a barrier."

Young said he thinks sometimes, the bureaucracy needs to get out of its own way.

"It's called the 'Silo of Care,' and it goes back to the old farm way of doing things," Young said. "We can't do that today. We need to break down those silos and rebuild the system so it's one system, not many systems."

Romanek said she would welcome a streamlined system.

'If I could deal with just one person instead of two or more, that would be glorious," Romanek said.