DFL leader wants to split state's Human Services department into 5

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A leading Minnesota lawmaker is calling for the state's largest public agency, the Department of Human Services, to be split into five.

Rep. Paul Thissen, the DFL House minority leader, on Tuesday called for changes at the department "in order to provide greater transparency and accountability to the people of Minnesota."

Among many other functions, the department is responsible for running Minnesota's public health programs, which under Thissen's plan would be its own standalone agency.

Here's how he wants to split it:

  • A Department of Health Care Services for MinnesotaCare, Medical Assistance, Chemical Dependency and Mental Health Services. 
  • A Department of Aging and Disability Services.
  • A Department of Human Services for child welfare and childcare assistance programs, income assistance programs, and social services grants.
  • A Department of Forensic Services with responsibility for St. Peter State Hospital, the Forensic Nursing Home and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program
  • A Department of Direct Care Services with responsibility for the Anoka Treatment Facility and State Operated Services.

Thissen said he has been working on the idea "for several months" and that the hiring of Emily Johnson Piper as the new DHS Commissioner serves as an ideal opportunity for a reorganization.

He says having all of the responsibilities listed above has "become challenging for the department to manage as a single entity," adding: "These programs are too important to be managed from crisis to crisis with accountability resting with a single individual."

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