Dunleavy looks to split DHSS into two departments

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced on Tuesday his intent to split the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) into two separate departments – the Alaska Department of Health and the Alaska Department of Family and Community Services.

Dunleavy has directed the Alaska Department of Law to draft an executive order to reorganize the department, which will then be submitted to state lawmakers when the 2021 legislative session begins in January.


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In his announcement, Dunleavy said the reorganization is aimed at streamlining and improving service delivery while creating more flexibility in the departments.

“In order to obtain a keen focus on each crucial division and achieve the outcomes of each program that Alaskans expect and deserve, I will exercise my constitutional authority and reorganize the department to meet the needs of Alaskans into the 21st century,” said Governor Dunleavy in a statement. “The bottom line is Alaskans will be the ultimate beneficiaries of this reorganization, particularly children, the elderly and other vulnerable populations.”

Under the executive order, the Alaska Department of Health will focus on the health and wellbeing of all Alaskans. The department will include the Divisions of Senior & Disabilities Services, Behavioral Health, Public Health, Public Assistance & Medicaid, and Health Care Services. It will also house Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer.

“The department will serve as the eligibility, payment, and data department that will focus on whole person care by leveraging evidence based, data driven practices and care models to make the most appropriate care available to recipients at the appropriate cost,” reads a statement from the Governor’s office.

The Department of Family and Community Services will focus on early intervention and prevention for families and vulnerable Alaskans. It will include the Division of Juvenile Justice, the Office of Children’s Services, the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, and Alaska Pioneer Homes.

“The Alaskans served by the Department of Health and Social Services, as well as the employees who provide those services deserve to see this process begin today,” said Adam Crum, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services in a statement. “By reorganizing the department everyone involved will benefit in many areas internally and externally including focused care, increased responsiveness, and overall workflow. Co Aligning divisions and programs into distinct departments, with distinct missions and focus, will allow each department to focus on the needs of Alaskans through the services they provide.”

According to an FAQ provided by the governor’s office, if the executive order goes into effect Dunleavy will need to appoint a new commissioner to the Department of Family and Community Services.

Once the executive order is submitted to the legislature, lawmakers will have 60 days to disapprove it or it will become law and will go into effect July 1, 2021.