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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: April 13, 2017 03:45 PM
From: Senator Judith L. Schwank
To: All Senate members
Subject: Agency unification
In the near future, I will introduce the enabling legislation for Governor Wolf's proposed unification of the Departments of Aging, Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), Health and Human Services (DHS) into a new Department of Health and Human Services.
In his budget address, Governor Wolf presented this unification not only to achieve savings and efficiencies but, most importantly, to improve the delivery of services to Pennsylvanians. The proposed unification presents us with a significant opportunity to reinvent state government, streamline bureaucracy, and break down the silos that prevent agencies from serving residents most effectively.
While all four agencies today are providing high quality services, we can do better by creating a no-wrong-door approach for Pennsylvanians. Examples of the overlap among these agencies abound.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women Infants and Children (WIC), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF) are similar in nature and often serve overlapping populations. Many individuals receiving WIC are also receiving SNAP due to the limited types of food and supplies that can be purchased with each. Yet SNAP and TANF are housed in DHS and WIC is housed in the Department of Health, WIC is distributed to individuals by check and SNAP and TANF are distributed on Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.
DHS provides home and community based services to certain eligible seniors through the Aging Waiver, while the Department of Aging oversees Pennsylvania's network of 52 Area Agencies on Aging (AAA), many of whom provide application assistance and administer service coordination for individuals in the Aging Waiver. Similarly, DDAP licenses drug and alcohol facilities, many of whom operate in the Medicaid program. At the same time, DHS, the Department of Health, and the Department of Aging license various other providers including hospitals, nursing homes, adult day care facilities, personal care homes, and child care facilities. Combining the licensing resources of these four agencies will help to ensure treatment options are available to all those who need them as we continue to battle the heroin and opioid epidemic and grapple with an increasing aging population.
In 2015, the General Assembly and Governor Wolf took a bold step to move the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to DHS where it is more appropriately housed as compared to the Insurance Department, an agency whose mission is primarily regulatory. In December, 2015, the average time required to process a CHIP claim was 40 days. As of October 1, 2016, that time had decreased to one day. In the same period, approximately 17,000 additional children received health care under the program.
The unification of the current four agencies can allow us to replicate this success into many other areas of service delivery and achieve efficiencies and savings. This legislation is the beginning of a journey to improve the way government does business, a journey in which our input and participation is vital,.
I urge you to join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as SB746