Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during an August news conference. On Tuesday, Dunleavy proposed reorganizing the state’s largest department, the Department of Health and Social Services, into two smaller departments. (Courtesy Photo / Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during an August news conference. On Tuesday, Dunleavy proposed reorganizing the state’s largest department, the Department of Health and Social Services, into two smaller departments. (Courtesy Photo / Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

Governor proposes big change for Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

And then there were two?

The state’s largest department could become two of its larger departments.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday announced plans for an executive order that would divide the Department of Health and Social Services into two departments.

“Some may say that this is growing government — it’s not,” Dunleavy said in a news conference. “There’s no additions. It’s just splitting it out, so there’s focus on those two individual departments.”

Dunleavy pitched the reorganization as a way to increase focus on the responsibilities of each department and improve outcomes for Alaska. He cited Article III, Section 23 of the state constitution as establishing the governor’s ability to reorganize the state’s executive branch.

The governor’s office also mentioned past executive orders that created both the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the department of corrections as precedent for the proposal, in a frequently asked questions document about the reorganization.

“We want government to be better,” Dunleavy said. “We want government to perform better.”

Under the proposed reorganization, the divisions of health care services, public assistance, behavioral health, senior and disabilities services and public health would comprise the Department of Health, which would be led by current Department of Health and Social Services commissioner Adam Crum. The Office of Children’s Services, Alaska Pioneer Homes, Division of Juvenile Justice and Alaska Psychiatric Institute would be part of a proposed Department of Family and Community Services.

“Any attention of one division is at the detriment of another,” Crum said during the conference. “We are working under the tyranny of time. There’s just not enough time and bandwidth in the day for the commissioner’s office and staff to do anything but move from fire to fire — from crisis to crisis.”

The other half of the proposed split, the Department of Family and Community Services, would be led by a commissioner to be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature, and each department would include a division for finance and management services, according to the governor’s office.

Dunleavy said he does not have any particular candidate in mind for the potential new cabinet position.

The change is not expected to lead to a reduction in the number of state employees, Dunleavy and Crum said.

Dunleavy added the change isn’t motivated by a desire to “hack off” parts of government.

The order isn’t expected to lead to state employees having to reapply for their jobs or relocate, Dunleavy said.

The reorganization, which was not included in the governor’s budget released on Dec. 13, also isn’t expected to be costly, according to the governor.

“Right now, we’re anticipating it’s going to be a cost-neutral issue,” Dunleavy said.

Once the order is submitted during the upcoming legislative session, the Alaska State Legislature will have 60 days to disapprove of it via a resolution supported by a majority of lawmakers in a joint session, according to state statute.

The Legislature will not be able to amend the executive order, which means the order is an all or nothing proposition.

If the order isn’t disapproved, it will take effect on July 1, 2021, according to the governor’s office.

Read a frequently asked questions document about the reorganization below:

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of May 18

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, May 17, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, May 16, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Students and staff play a kickball game on the field between the Marie Drake Building and Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on Friday afternoon. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
School district leaders debate biggest needs for extra $5.2M approved by Legislature, in hope governor won’t veto it

Staff for special education and gifted students, homeschooling, paying off city loan high on list.

Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, speaks Wednesday, May 8, on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
After several deadly drownings, Alaska Legislature votes to require harbor safety ladders

Bill by Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, passes on final day of session.

Members of the Thunder Mountain High School culinary arts team prepare their three-course meal during the National ProStart Invitational in Baltimore on April 26-28. (Photo by Rebecca Giedosh-Ruge)
TMHS culinary arts team serves a meal of kings at national competition

Five students who won state competition bring Alaskan crab and salmon to “Top Chef”-style event.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, May 15, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, listens to discussion on the Senate floor on Wednesday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
A look at some of the bills that failed to pass the Alaska Legislature this year

Parts of a long-term plan to bring state revenue and expenses into line again failed to advance.

Most Read