Officials Consider Merger of North Dakota Health, Human Services Agencies | Government and Politics


“It makes sense to just merge the two together, because you should get better efficiencies and hopefully provide better services,” said Weisz, who added that the law initially provided that health and social services “Stayed side by side,” with flexibility for the governor on how to structure the new department.

The merger follows other reshuffles in recent years. The 2017 legislature created the Department of Environmental Quality from a section of the Department of Health. The 2019 legislature reorganized the 46 social services managed by North Dakota counties into 19 mostly multi-county administrative areas, shifting the costs onto the state.

Weisz’s bill was passed by an overwhelming majority in the House. He squeaked by the Senate 24-23. Senator Ron Sorvaag, R-Fargo, who helps draft state agency budgets, criticized the merger as ineffective for two agencies that have different roles and are better able to stand on their own.

“(Once we’ve) made that decision, you can’t disentangle it. It’ll never be mixed up in there, and they have separate roles, they have separate responsibilities,” Sorvaag told the Senate.

Human Services Executive Director Chris Jones called the merger a “reinvention of the way we do things” which is aligned with Burgum’s vision for state government.

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“It’s going to take a while, and quite frankly, it will probably be several biennia until you can really say, ‘Yes, there is only one Department of Health and Human Services‘,” Jones said.

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