human services

Redesigning social service delivery in North Dakota

Jan 4, 2018
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."

Dept of Human Services

During the 2017 Legislative session, it was touted as permanent property tax relief.

And the state takeover of payments for county social service programs is coming to fruition.

That is happening as the state is ending its 12-percent property tax buy-down program.

"The counties will receive their first payment on Jan. 10th," said North Dakota Human Services Director Chris Jones.

Counties could levy up to 20 mills to pay for those programs. But because of the takeover, those 20 mills have gone away.

A program to reduce “wait times” for people seeking treatment for an addiction or a mental health need is now available at regional human service centers statewide.

It’s called “Open Access.”


Interim legislative committees are looking at North Dakota’s delivery of human service programs.

One study looks specifically at county social services, and another looks at a potential reorganization of the state Department of Human Services.

"The goal, from my perspective, is not necessarily how we redesign DHS," said department director Chris Jones. "It's how we take a step back and look at how we most effectively and efficiently deliver social services across the state."


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.

Bills would support family caregivers

Jan 5, 2017

A Legislative committee is considering bills to help family members who provide home care for loved ones.

One measure would make sure hospitals give family caregivers enough information so they can take care of someone at home. AARP North Dakota says this doesn’t always happen.

A task force is proposing the state take over full funding of social service programs – relieving the counties of their responsibility for paying that bill.

But some members of a Legislative interim committee question whether the state can afford to do it – during a time of low oil and crop prices.

Governor Dalrymple has named a task force to look at whether the state should pick up most or all of the costs of social services.

Dalrymple told the North Dakota Association of Counties meeting in Bismarck – counties were given the authority in the late 1980s to levy up to 20 mills of property tax to pay for some social service programs. He says the Legislature approved that funding mechanism at a time where state finances were tight.

"But today, that is not the case," Dalrymple said. "The state is much better off financially."

The House has passed the human services budget – although some House members say it doesn’t go far enough in meeting the needs of the state’s most vulnerable population.

The budget is the largest in state government. It spends $1.3 billion in state general fund revenues.

"That's a 12.8 percent in that budget," said Rep. Chet Pollert (R-Carrington), who was a member of the House-Senate conference committee. Pollert says it’s smaller than the Senate version by $28 million, but about 8 percent larger than the House proposed.

The Legislature is looking at a proposal for the state to take over about half what counties budget for in social services.

That’s something the counties have been requesting for some time.

"We did some rough calculations, and it would -- out of our $2.3 million human services budget, would have the state take over funding about $775,000 of that," said Morton County Commissioner Bruce Strinden, a member of the North Dakota Association of Counties Legislative committee. "It would effectively drop our mills by about half."