State Senator Heath Mello announced that the Appropriations Committee has designated LR 535, an interim study to examine the structure of the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services
(DHHS), as its top priority interim study for 2014.
The resolution is co-sponsored by 14 senators, including most members of both the Appropriations and Health & Human Services Committees of the Legislature.
Under LR 535, the Appropriations and Health & Human Services Committees will conduct a joint interim study to review the current structure of DHHS as well as the structures utilized in other states.
Prior to 1996, health and human services functions were divided between four separate state agencies – the Department of Aging, the
Department of Health, the Department of Public Institutions, and the Department of Social Services – in addition to the Office of Juvenile Services in the Department of Correctional Services.
Mello acknowledged that while LR 535 would potentially look into deconsolidating DHHS, that the ultimate goal of the interim study is to provide greater transparency and fiscal oversight in what has become a “problem child” of Nebraska state government.
Since 2000, the State Auditor's Office has performed 103 separate audits of DHHS programs, including major audits relating to the Beatrice State Developmental Center, the Thomas Fitzgerald Veterans' Home, the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney, child welfare reform efforts, and management of federal Medicaid and Low-
Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds.
“During the six years that I have served in the Legislature, no agency has demonstrated more deficiencies or caused lawmakers more headaches than the Department of Health & Human Services,” said Mello. “With the change in administration that will come with a
new governor next year, I believe that it is appropriate for the Legislature to consider wholesale structural changes in the largest agency in Nebraska state government.”