New DHS director planning agency reviews

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 119 views 

Cindy Gillespie (left), director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services

The new director of the Department of Human Services plans a short-term review within 60 days, followed by a more comprehensive look at its structure, she told legislators Thursday.

Cindy Gillespie, who started her new job March 1, told the Joint Budget Committee that the initial review would consider the agency’s administrative structure: contracting, procurement, finance and facilities. It would involve looking at saving money through consolidations, improving efficiencies, and taking advantage of the agency’s buying power. She said she would like the review to be completed by July 1. Some resulting changes might need legislative approval.

After that, she would like to take a longer look at two structural areas that would be brought to the Legislature during the 2017 regular session.

One would be to consider how the agency can better integrate its services. She praised a recent report by Lt. Governor Tim Griffin, completed at the request of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, that found the agency’s multiple divisions don’t communicate well with each other, resulting in inefficiencies and poorer service to Arkansas clients.

“Folks in the field should be able to deal with the people that they’re helping as a holistic person, and they shouldn’t be trapped within the silos or within the programs,” she said.

The other review would consider personnel structures: how the department is organized, and how it attracts, retains and pays talent, she said.

The Joint Budget Committee was meeting to prepare for the fiscal session, which begins April 13. It approved an amendment to a 2016-17 operations appropriations bill that would increase Gillespie’s salary from the $161,038 paid to her predecessor, John Selig, to $280,000.

Gillespie is a former health care advisor to then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. She earlier served as a senior executive for the not-for-profit Salt Lake Olympic Committee, which hosted the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games, and was a director of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, which hosted the 1996 Games. Before coming to Arkansas, she was a principal in the Washington, D.C., office of Dentons’ Public Policy and Regulation and a leader of the firm’s Health Policy and Health Insurance Exchange teams.

She told legislators she has been busy during her eight days on the job, including meeting “constantly since I’ve walked in the door” with her executive team. She said she has met with Hutchinson several times.

Gillespie was asked during the meeting by Rep. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, how the state’s DHS budget compares to other states.

“From what I’ve seen, you seem to be fairly similar,” she said. She said she was looking for savings as part of the review she is conducting.

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