Human Service zones focus of a meeting in Bismarck | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Human Service zones focus of a meeting in Bismarck

Jun 13, 2019

North Dakota Association of Counties executive director Terry Traynor addresses a meeting in Bismarck on the establishment of "human service zones."
Credit Donnell Presky Huschka / ND Association of Counties

Representatives from all 53 counties met in Bismarck this week to talk about forming “human service zones.”

The 2019 Legislature passed a bill to allow for the creation of up to 19 such zones.

"It's not a state take-over of county social services," said North Dakota Department of Human Services executive director Chris Jones. "It's how do we best deliver social services to individuals across the state."

Jones said in an interview it's about removing boundaries, and assuring things are done in a more efficient manner.

"It's about, how do we continue to evolve to better services in North Dakota," Jones said.

North Dakota Association of Counties Executive Director Terry Traynor said the concept of “zones” is more toward administration.

"It's to make sure that there's a place for HR services and payroll services to the right people," Traynor said. "In service delivery zone boundaries don't mean anything."

Traynor said that means you can receive services anywhere.

Jones and Traynor say there was some initial apprehension…but much of that evaporated.

Jones said one of the purposes of the meeting was to come up with potential zones.

"And when we left the room, we now have 20 zones -- one too many," Jones said. "In one meeting, with everyone working together, we were able to move very quickly."

Jones said the next step is to work with the county officials on how to implement – and budget for – the zones.

(A recording of the interview done with Jones and Traynor is posted here.)