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A Texas-Sized State Health Agency

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Five state agencies that deal with the economically deprived and otherwise vulnerable or underserved sections of Texas society, could soon become one Texas-sized agency.  

If a proposal to combine these agencies is passed in the upcoming legislative session, then bid goodbye to the Department of Family and Protective Services, the Department of Aging and Disability Services, the Department of State Health Services, the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services and the Texas Office for the Prevention of Developmental Disabilities. These five bodies would then be combined into the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

At the moment, the five agencies employ a combined staff of more than 54,000, and spent a collective $34.5 billion — 90 percent of that on Medicaid.

This consolidation of agencies is seen as an extension of a similar consolidation in 2003, which saw 11 agencies merged into these five.

Proponents of the plan say a single mega agency would save money, increase efficiency, clear up confusion over who deals with what issues and rid the state of extra paperwork when dealing with federal government funding.

At Sunset Commission hearings on the subject this week in Austin, state lawmakers, including state Sen. Jane Nelson, chair of the Sunset Commission and the Senate Finance Committee, sounded optimistic about the proposal going through.

The proposed super agency, the Health and Human Services Commission, would then be responsible for a number of state services — including dealing with food stamps, Medicaid, child protective services, women’s health services, the troubled state supported living centers, Texas state hospitals and other complex, often thorny, issues.

Some are wondering if this consolidation is actually in the best interests of Texans who depend on these agencies for everything from aid to advocacy to survival. Eileen Garcia is the CEO of Texans Care for Children. “The idea behind consolidation is really under the guise of accountability, efficiency and cost effectiveness, but as proposed, it really wouldn’t achieve as any of those,” said Garcia.

More information:

The Texas Sunset Commission Report

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi