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Director advocates merger of Iowa's Human Services and Public Health departments

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DES MOINES -- Bringing the departments of Human Services and Public Health together in one agency will improve service to Iowans by allowing their staffs to work together in less “siloed” ways, Kelly Garcia, who heads both departments, told legislators Tuesday.

Kelly Garcia


The “alignment” of the two departments will make it easier for Iowans to obtain services, help the combined agency to fill service gaps as well as eliminate redundancies, Garcia said.

Human Services is among the state’s largest departments, including the Iowa Medicaid program, mental heath operations including state-run facilities and the division of adult, children and family services, among other human and social services. The Iowa Public Health Department has been front and center during the pandemic.

Already, there are many connections between the departments and the services they provide. In many cases, both agencies serve the same families, but too often there’s no way to connect them across the two departments, Garcia said. A merger should be able to help people seamlessly receive the maximum services in the most efficient way to give families the tools to be independent.

There will be financial advantages, too, she said, as the agency creates efficiencies and leverage funds. The changes will allow Iowa to pull down additional federal dollars, Garcia added.

Work on realigning the agencies has been ongoing since May 2021 and Garcia has received input from more than 1,300 interested parties. Gov. Kim Reynolds will be sponsoring legislation for lawmakers to remove some statutory barriers to the implementation of the merger by July 1.

“That's when we'll work on the agencies coming together,” she said, “but there's more transformative work out there that will take a longer amount of time. What Iowans should know today is that we're very much working on that now, and that doesn't take the Legislature for us to work better together today.”


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