Sunset Commission Should Oppose Creation of Health & Human Services Mega-Agency

For Immediate Release

CONTACT: Peter Clark, pclark@txchildren.org, 512.417.9262

Sunset Commission Should Oppose Creation of Health & Human Services Mega-Agency

AUSTIN – As the state’s Sunset Commission members meet today for a hearing on Sunset staff recommendations, Texans Care for Children is calling on the Commission to oppose their staff recommendation to consolidate the state’s health and human services agencies into a single mega-agency.

"We all agree on the importance of efficiency in our programs to investigate child abuse, ensure babies are healthy, provide services to Texans with disabilities, and carry out other health and human services functions,” said Eileen Garcia, CEO of the nonprofit organization Texans Care for Children. "However, burying existing agencies within another layer of bureaucracy at this point would divert attention away from fixing the real problems identified by Sunset, disrupt services for children and families, and create new inefficiencies. At this time, we oppose consolidating the agencies into a single mega-agency.”

The Sunset Commission Staff Report accurately identified many gaps in services and many areas where there is insufficient accountability, oversight and transparency. It included recommendations that do not require consolidation, such as the creation of cross-functional teams between agencies. Texans Care for Children is calling on the Sunset Commission and legislature to address these areas without further delay or distraction. After the state has fully implemented and reviewed solutions to the challenges identified by Sunset, Texans Care for Children would then support the legislature’s consideration of the pros and cons of overhauling the organization of these agencies.

"We want DFPS officials to stay focused on improving child abuse investigations and the safety of foster homes rather than moving their offices around. We want our DSHS Commissioner to be able to act quickly when there are public health threats such as Ebola rather than spending time navigating a larger bureaucracy,” explained Garcia. "We want improved coordination, but we’ve seen in the past that making staff from different programs sit next to each other and use the same letterhead isn’t the way to make them work together.”

Today, Sunset staff members are testifying to the Commission at a hearing at the Capitol. Tomorrow, Texans Care for Children will testify on the consolidation recommendation and other issues as the Commission members listen to public testimony at the Capitol. The hearings are intended to collect input on the Sunset staff’s recommendations and shape the Sunset Commission’s recommendations to the next legislature.

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