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Health, Human Services departments prepare for a merger

In element portrait of Human Services Director Chris Jones
Poppy Mills/NDDOT
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In element portrait of Human Services Director Chris Jones

On September 1, the Departments of Human Services and Health officially will merge, becoming the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The 2021 Legislature approved the merger – but gave the agencies time to work out any problems. The agencies have worked with consultants to help smooth the transition.

"Our principle, as we put everything together, is to be the healthiest state in the nation," said Human Services director Chris Jones. "We focus on the foundations of well-being — physical health, behavioral health and economic health."

Jones said the agencies worked with consultants, to smooth out any issues.

"From a policy perspective, and from a citizen perspective, we haven't run into anything as relates to 'Oh, we didn't think of that,'" Jones said.

And Jones said when the merger occurs, no jobs will be lost.

"This was never to reduce any staff," Jones said. "It's to create more opportunities."

Jones said more than 50 projects have been identified to support three main goals.

"One is to deliver a streamlined path to quality and equitable programs and services — how do we look at the person and make sure we're delivering the services they need," Jones said. "Second, we want to improve all the programs that we have. And third, which is becoming bigger given the workforce challenge we have — how do we create career growth and development?"

Jones said the two agencies are still working through budgeting and communications issues.

"The separate agencies did them well," Jones said. "But there are differences."

Jones said working through those issues have given the agencies a roadmap to follow.

"There's probably more work to do in those areas," Jones said.

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