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Questions Linger in Gov. Snyder's Department Merger

PHOTO: Gov. Rick Snyder’s plans to combine the departments of Community Health and Human Services  are raising concerns about what it will mean for agencies, workers and the delivery of services at the local level. Photo courtesy of Gov. Snyder's office.
PHOTO: Gov. Rick Snyder’s plans to combine the departments of Community Health and Human Services are raising concerns about what it will mean for agencies, workers and the delivery of services at the local level. Photo courtesy of Gov. Snyder's office.
January 28, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Rick Snyder is expected soon to sign an executive order that will create the state's largest agency. Officials say the merger of the departments of Community Health and Human Services will save costs and better meet the needs of an underserved population.

Maxine Thome, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said the new agency could provide a more integrated system of care, but how it will happen is still up in the air.

"The problem is, the service delivery systems at the local level are so different," she said. "The question is, how will this be implemented at the community level? And at the state level, they don't know yet."

As the programs are blended, Thome said, Snyder and other top officials should recognize the critical need for local input. She added that social workers and others on the front lines of agencies have a unique perspective, and their voices should be heard in determining how the merger is implemented.

Thome said budget components also need to be worked out, since the departments are two of the biggest budget expenditures for the state.

"It's going to absorb a significant chunk of the budget, without quite yet a real sense of how it's going to play out," she said. "Right now, the state is operating in the red, and there's still a question about what the next year's budget will look like."

Between the two departments, there are more than 14,000 employees. Officials have said it's too soon to know if layoffs will take place, but they insist the merger is not related to dozens of jobs recently cut at the Department of Human Services.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI