Dept. of Health and Human Services merger seeking consults

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 7:11 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Two of the most followed agencies during COVID are being morphed into one: the departments of Health and Human Services.

After Governor Doug Burgum signed the Merger Bill, the two agencies were given 18 months to make everything fit together. They are now holding public meetings over what needs to happen.

Sitting in a capitol meeting room side by side were the two heads of merging state agencies. Both of them are members of the governor’s cabinet, but soon their two domains will become one.

”It is exciting times because all these changes mean opportunities. Opportunities to improve, opportunities to serve North Dakotans in a better way,” said State Health Officer Nizar Wehbi.

Dr. Wehbi has been on the job for only three months after the merger bill was signed into law.

Over that time, he’s been charged with overseeing the transition, along with Human Services Executive Director Chris Jones.

However, more may be entering the transition. The state has a Request For Proposal open to bring in consults and hopes to have them on board soon.

”I want the duck looking like he’s floating right along up here while everyone is paddling crazily down here to get the job done. Down below the surface of the water are all the people that are working from the county level to the state. But we want the service delivery, as much as we can, to be smoothly delivered at the top,” said Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo.

To help keep the agencies as functional as possible, Wehbi and Jones have put emphasis on communication throughout the departments, including publishing internal flyers and videos for state employees under the banner “Better Together.”

According to the new law, the agencies have until September 2022 to be merged. However, many believe it may take more time than that for the transition to be completed.

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