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Proposed bill would merge department of health with human services in Utah

Feb 12, 2021, 3:24 PM | Updated: 5:08 pm
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(Utah State Capitol. Credit: Paul Nelson, file)
(Utah State Capitol. Credit: Paul Nelson, file)

A plan to merge the Utah Department of Health with the Department of Human Services is coming to the Utah Legislature. Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, has kept his “State Agency Realignment” proposal as an unnumbered bill file, but he said it will receive a bill number to be officially introduced early next week.

Merging the two departments would allow for efficiencies in areas such as mental health, where different programs are in “silos,” with workers doing similar things but not working together, according to Ray. He said the merger could allow for more efficient use of technology and have other benefits.

The merger has been the subject of many meetings with the governor’s office and other stakeholders, Ray said.

“What we’re not trying to do is get rid of employees,” Ray said. “There’s no intent to lay anybody off at all. The intent is to merge these two together so they’re just more efficient and streamlined.”

The new agency would be known as the Utah Department of Health and Human Services. It would also incorporate part of the Department of Workforce Services that determines eligibility for Medicaid.

The bill proposes that managers of both agencies work together on a plan for the merger and finished by December 2021. It would take effect July 1, 2022, leaving time for the legislature to make any needed adjustments in its next general session.

Lobbyist Carrie Butler with the Utah Public Health Association, which represents health department employees, said there’s no reason to be in a hurry with the merger.

“I do think that a study and pumping the brakes a little bit and just really understanding what the merger would look like would be beneficial,” she said.

Additionally, Butler said she’d like to see the issue studied by an interim committee before it’s finalized.

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Proposed bill would merge department of health with human services in Utah