Lt. Gov. Griffin recommends reorganization of DHS, the state’s largest agency

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 269 views 

The Department of Human Services should be reorganized so that it takes an integrated approach rather than one marked by separate divisions that fail to communicate with each other or serve their Arkansas clients, Lt. Governor Tim Griffin said Monday (March 2).

In a meeting with reporters, Griffin detailed the recommendations he is making to Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) after an eight-week review, involving more than 185 interviews, that he conducted after the governor requested it last December. He presented his recommendations to Hutchinson March 4.

The Department of Human Services is state government’s largest agency with responsibility for a variety of services ranging from Medicaid to foster children.

Griffin said DHS is organized under a traditional governmental structure with a director, two deputy directors, and many divisions that don’t communicate with each other. The top-down organizational structure makes it hard for individual Arkansans to navigate the bureaucracy.

“What I propose: Scrap ‘em all, and start over with the client-centered approach under the umbrella of DHS,” he said.

Griffin said the details of the reorganization would be the responsibility of Hutchinson and his new DHS director, Cindy Gillespie. But he said that, instead of the department being organized by division, it could be organized holistically with coordinated services “so that when the individual approaches the government, they’re not approaching 10 different people for 10 different benefits.”

“The goal is to say, hey, instead of looking at the organization of DHS from a bureaucratic perspective, let’s look at it from the perspective of the Arkansan,” he said. “Is the way it is currently set up the easiest way to navigate the agency? And the answer is a resounding no.”

One model would include various support divisions with one client service division coordinating all services. He said services should be coordinated by a case manager who can help clients with all the services they access. For example, if a client must have job training to continue receiving benefits, that case manager would be aware of that. He said that model would be more efficient and effective and would cost less money.

“We haven’t always asked the question, ‘When all the services are provided to this Arkansan, is the outcome a good one?” he said.

Instead, he said the standard has always been about whether the agency is receiving “lots of money and more money.”

Gov. Hutchinson said in a statement, “Lt. Governor Tim Griffin spent a great deal of time on this project and conducted an extraordinary number of interviews in preparation for his report to my office. I was delighted to meet with him and hear his ideas on more effective organization of DHS. I am looking forward to reviewing these ideas with our new DHS Director Cindy Gillespie, and I have no doubt that some of his insights will be very helpful in creating a DHS atmosphere that is supportive of the employees and allows us to effectively manage the department to conserve taxpayers’ money.”

Griffin’s other recommendations included the following items.
• Strengthen the role of DHS’ chief financial officer by giving that position managerial control over all division CFOs. Currently, division-level CFOs report to their division heads, not to the department’s CFO.

• Create education and experience requirements for CFOs.

• Strengthen the role of the assistant director for Contract Support Services by giving that person managerial control over all division contract and procurement staff.

• Establish an Office of Legislative Affairs to communicate with the Legislature.

• Give managers more flexibility by streamlining the process for changing job titles and descriptions, number of employees, job requirements, and other aspects of office operations.

• Institute orientation training for new employees to help them better understand the services DHS provides.

• Strengthen the Office of Quality Assurance.

• Investigate all child maltreatment cases in the Arkansas State Police Crimes Against Children Division (CACD) instead of the Division of Children and Family Services, which currently investigates less severe cases.

• Assign specific commissioned police officers to the CACD so they develop expertise in child maltreatment cases.

• Study if administrative law judges should be moved out of DHS consistent with the Model Administrative Procedures Act.

• Reform personnel laws related to pay, hiring, firing, and employee rewards and discipline, and create a career ladder where employees can progress.

• Consolidate DHS county offices to increase access to county services.

• Implement a computer platform employing a centralized intake to share data across services.