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DHS Director Announces Agency Reorganization

4 min read

The director of the state Department of Human Services on Tuesday announced a reorganization of the massive agency, making use of shared administrative services and centralized offices with chiefs that report directly to her.

The move follows Cindy Gillespie’s 60-day review, which she said found redundant duties; limited reporting and oversight; and a “lack of a strategic or effective focus on engaging external stakeholders.”

The reorganization takes effect July 1, the start of the state’s new fiscal year.

More: See the DHS presentation outlining the new structure of the agency.

“It was clear from the moment I arrived that DHS has hard-working, dedicated employees,” Gillespie said in a news release. “But it was not clear whether the business structure itself was set up so that DHS could do the work it needed to do as efficiently as was expected.

“It’s smart business to look at how we’re operating to see if mission changes, market forces, technology advancements or other factors mean we need to change the way we do business to be more effective,” she said.

The new structure includes offices of:

Finance, which will be headed by Mark Story and responsible for the agency’s finances. It will include a new office of long-term planning, a “strengthened payment and program integrity unit” and audit functions

Procurement, which will be headed by Misty Bowen-Eubanks and responsible for procurement as a “shared service” for all DHS divisions and support offices.

Human resources, another shared service provider for all DHS divisions and support offices. It aims to implement “an agency-wide strategy to attract and retain the talent necessary to carry out the work of DHS.” A leader for the office has not been named.

Information technology, which will be headed by Jeff Dean and provide “agency-wide IT strategy” and standards and “ensure systems are in place for staff to do their jobs.”

Communications and community engagement, which will be headed by Amy Webb. The office combines the current office of communications and the division of community service and nonprofit support, reducing the number of DHS divisions from 10 to 9. A new assistant director for community engagement and faith-based partnership “will provide a focus for maximizing the involvement of outside organizations in supporting the DHS mission.”

Legislative and inter-governmental affairs, which will be headed by Kelley Linck, who is resigning from the Legislature to lead the office.

Chief counsel, which will continue to be headed by David Sterling. 

“There’s a lot we’re going to be able to do with this new structure and maybe most exciting is for the divisions now,” Gillespie told reporters at a news conference. “The divisions can stop worrying about these business activities and instead they can focus on delivering the services they’re supposed to deliver and the programs to the clients of DHS.”

In a document outlining the changes, Gillespie said her review found 10 DHS divisions with independent finance, human resources, information technology and procurement operations, and an additional 10 executive level offices “that provide limited level of division support.” She also said there are “limited metrics or data collection” to measure performance.

As a result, there was no “centralized visibility” by the director of the agency’s “core business functions;” no “clarity on accountability and responsibility;” and no “strategic or effective focus on external engagement.”

The new structure aims to address those issues, creating a line of sight into the agency’s functions, increasing “collaboration and decision-making between business functions,” improving “the ability to recruit top talent” and emphasizing “benchmarking and performance management.” 

Gillespie said the restructuring won’t result in any layoffs, but the department will save more than $597,000 by removing 25 positions that have been vacant since 2012.

“I applaud Cindy and her team for completing this re-structuring of DHS,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a DHS news release. “This new approach not only makes the agency stronger, but it allows for more accountability when issues arise. I look forward to the next phases of the review and the continued progress being made at DHS.”

Hutchinson hired Gillespie, a former health care advisor to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, in February to replace the agency’s longtime leader John Selig, who announced last year that he would leave the post.

As executive assistant to Gov. Romney, Gillespie led state interactions with the federal government and implementation of executive branch initiatives, including the development of Massachusetts health reforms.

Challenges at DHS has put the agency in the spotlight over the past two years.

A report by the Arkansas Times on the “re-homing” of a legislator’s adopted children prompted new laws banning the practice in Arkansas and a review of the agency’s Division of Children & Family Services.

The agency is also led an effort to verify the eligibility of Arkansans receiving health insurance coverage under the private option and Medicaid. At times, the agency struggled to handle the workload.

DHS also oversees the state’s plan to cover low-income Arkansans using federal money available under the Affordable Care Act. Funding for that program, formerly known as the “private option” but now called “Arkansas Works,” was reauthorized by the state Legislature earlier this year. 

(With reporting by the Associated Press’ Andrew DeMillo.)

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