by Max Brantley
The merger of the Health and Human Services Departments is over. Gov. Mike Beebe split them up today.
Release on the jump.
GOV. BEEBE NEWS RELEASE
Governor Mike Beebe announced today that he has signed an executive order to separate the Arkansas Departments of Health and Human Services into two independent agencies. Effective July 1, 2007, DHHS will become the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health.
“Both agencies are stronger for the experience of having worked together,” Beebe said. “But after careful consideration, it makes the most sense to separate the two and return the Department of Health to a cabinet-level agency in a cost-neutral way.”
In 2005, the agencies were combined to improve administrative accountability within the Department of Health. Act 384 of 2007 granted Governor Beebe the authority to re-establish a separate Department of Health.
“I am comfortable that the administration at the Department of Health is on the right track,” Beebe said. “We can now move forward by focusing each respective agency on its own mission.”
“There is no doubt that both agencies have been strengthened by the merger,” said John Selig, DHHS Director. “We have streamlined certain services and clients will continue to reap the benefits after the separation of the two agencies. Over the next 60 days, we’ll be developing the details for separating the two infrastructures so they can operate independently.”
"We were able to incorporate some of the DHS administrative processes and make procedures, such as contracts and accounting, more efficient," added Dr. Paul Halverson, Director of the Health Division. "And now, without any negative impact on state services, we can separate our agency in a fashion that’s cost neutral to the state and taxpayers. We appreciate the Governor’s recognizing health as a critical component of his emphasis on improving the quality of life for all Arkansans."
Part of the decision-making process for the separation of the agencies included working with federal officials to ensure continued certification of the Public Health Laboratory.
The Department of Health lost its Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments certification from the Federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in April of 2005. However, CMS has since praised improvements made at the Public Health Lab and the lab will retain its re-certification under the new Department of Health.
Currently, DHHS has more than 10,000 employees and serves more than one million Arkansans.