Alaska DHSS Proposed Split Criticized
Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN
January 15, 2021
Dunleavy issued an executive order to establish the Department of Health and the Department of Family and Community Services. The governor's order will be submitted in the legislative session that starts on Jan. 19,, 2021. The order must be approved by a majority vote in a joint session of the Legislature to go into effect.
In testimony Wednesday, Tanana Chiefs Conference Chairman P.J. Simon said while that organization was willing to work with the governor's administration on an alternative plan to reduce bureaucracy, the current proposal would negatively affect social services.
Simons testified the proposed split would produce “worse outcomes than the status quo.”
Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson provided testimony to the Alaska State Legislature's House Health and Social Services Committee concerning the proposed bifurcation of the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS).
Governor Mike Dunleavy first announced the reorganization on December 22, 2020, citing the DHSS has grown too large as a single department. Overall, health care workers, social service organizations and tribal governments believe the split would negatively impact Alaskan citizens.
During his testimony [Listen], President Peterson expressed Tlingit & Haida's concerns that the split would make it more difficult to provide the services needed to provide adequate child welfare programs, particularly considering that the majority of children under state care are Alaska Native.
“It is hard to discuss the bifurcation of DHSS without talking about negative impacts,” said President Peterson during testimony.
Another area of concern is that the state had not contacted Tlingit & Haida or other Alaska tribes to consult in a true government-to-government relationship.
“We met with Commissioner Crum as part of the working group last week,” said President Peterson. “You know, coming to the table and telling us a decision that has already been made really isn’t consultation. It doesn’t fit government-to-government consultation at all.”
Quoting a news release from Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, their tribal citizens are encouraged to stay informed on all actions taking place during the legislative session and engage with their elected representatives.
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