July 1, 2004
DHHS Open for Business Today
Governor John E. Baldacci, who introduced the legislation creating DHHS, said that the new department will provide better services for clients and lower costs for taxpayers. “My objective is to create a single point of entry, with no closed door, that will improve services for the people of Maine who need them,” said Governor Baldacci. “Today marks another step forward towards that goal.”
The new Department of Health and Human Services will represent 4,031 positions with a combined budget of $3.2 billion a year. The two former departments have 36 offices between them, although efforts are already under way across the state to co-locate those offices. Two offices in Houlton have already been combined; office co-location in Sanford will take shape later this fall.In addition, administrative functions such as financial management and budgeting, operations and support, and information technology, previously separated under the old structure, have already been consolidated.
DHHS Commissioner, John R. Nicholas, stated that while there is still a great deal of work to do, the creation of a new department is an opportunity to lay a new foundation for client service. “My hope,” the Commissioner said, “is to create a consumer focused agency that gives people the tools they need to live a responsible and independent life. We can do that by strengthening individuals and their families, building healthy communities, and supporting healthy lifestyles.”
Nicholas has already convened an Implementation Advisory Team, which will work with DHHS staff, external stakeholders, and community partners to advise him on the organization of the new department. The group had its first meeting yesterday and will continue to meet regularly over the remainder of the year.
The public can continue to access all services and programs as they do now. Due to the complexity of the reorganization, and the fact that the operating bureaus may not be finalized until the Commissioner’s recommended structure is approved by the next Legislature, the public will not see any particularly dramatic changes on July 1 from the way the two departments now operate.
Nicholas added that while the bureau structure of the new department has not yet been finalized, he has already begun the process of developing a common sustainable culture for the new DHHS. “In order to achieve our goals,” he said, “we need to treat consumers with respect and dignity, treat service providers with professionalism and courtesy, and support our staff in their efforts to work with the people of Maine.”