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February 24, 24, 2003


Plan closes more than 30 under-utilized local offices, achieves $90 million in savings


Governor Mitt Romney today unveiled a long overdue restructuring of the Commonwealth’s 16 Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies, replacing the current confusing maze of bureaucracy with a user-friendly system that is more responsive to the people it serves.


In the plan, Romney calls for the outright elimination of two agencies: the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy and the Division of Medical Assistance, whose functions will be transferred to other departments.

He also proposes closing 30 local offices across the state in the next six months and possibly even more in the future, depending on need. Currently, there are over 150 regional and area offices. At the Department of Transitional Assistance alone, there are 800 vacant workspaces in their local offices.


Back-office functions like human resources, accounting, legal and technical support – now spread across the entire bureaucracy – will be consolidated to function for the entire secretariat as opposed to individual agencies. This move will rid the agencies of duplicative overhead.


The reorganization plan will save nearly $60 million. Savings will increase each year as more efficiencies are realized. Reducing through sale the large inventory of HHS-owned facilities and land will achieve at least another $30 million in one-time revenue for Fiscal Year 2004.


“Throughout this process, we have been guided by a desire to simplify our health and human services agencies to better serve recipients. Rather than requiring families to navigate the current red tape jungle, we are consolidating functions to better help those who cannot help themselves,” Romney said. Families requiring HHS services now face a confusing alphabet soup of state agencies to access the help they need.


Under Romney’s proposal, individuals will enter the HHS system through one portal – the local office of the primary agency providing services to them. From there, a lead caseworker will determine if the family has needs for services provided by other agencies and will help the family navigate those services.


For example, if a mother visits the Department of Transitional Assistance to apply for food stamps, her lead caseworker may determine that she also needs childcare and services provided by the Department of Mental Health. From that moment on, the DTA caseworker will coordinate the delivery of all the family’s services, serving as the single point of contact. The mother will not need to travel to multiple offices and deal with layers upon layers of bureaucracy to get the help she needs. The saved time will allow families to focus on their lives and caseworkers to better help their clients.


Currently HHS agencies’ computer systems are incompatible and caseworkers are often unaware of a family’s involvement with other HHS agencies, leaving it up to families often the most unable to traverse a nightmarish bureaucratic maze of agencies to get the services they so desperately need.


HHS will also move into the model of other successful customer service organizations by offering a “virtual local office” with a toll-free number and enhanced Web site available for clients to get the answers and information they need about their services right away.


Romney said the HHS agencies would be divided into four different groups – Children, Youth and Families; Disabilities and Community Services; Health; and Elder Affairs – based on their common functions. Romney said, “We want to make sure that any person or family in need of an HHS service will be able to get that service easily. Under my plan, the bureaucracy will be simpler to navigate while saving significant time for state employees and significant money for taxpayers.”


In Children, Youth and Families will be the Department of Social Services, the Office of Child Care Services, the Department of Transitional Assistance, the Department of Youth Services and the Office for Refugees and Immigrants.


Under Disabilities and Community Services will be the Department of Mental Retardation, the long-term care unit of the Division of Medical Assistance, the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, the Commission for the Blind, the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the Chelsea and Holyoke Soldiers’ Homes.


Health will include the Department of Public Health, the acute care unit of the Division of Medical Assistance, and the Department of Mental Health. Community-based care for seniors and veterans’ services will fall under Elder Affairs.


Each group will be headed up by an Assistant Secretary who will double as a Commissioner, with the exception of Elder Affairs, which will remain a Cabinet-level Secretary. In closing at least 30 of the 150 local offices in each of the state’s six regions, Romney is bringing a level of scrutiny not previously applied. Currently there is no rhyme or reason guiding where HHS agencies are located. No clear boundaries exist to divide the regions, resulting in some clients needing to travel to a different region to visit a department office administering their service.


“The different HHS agencies have scores of offices literally scattered across the Commonwealth,” Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey said.


“Not only is this a waste of money and a duplication of services, it is a major inconvenience for those families who rely on services from more than one agency and are forced to go from place to place. We’re going to combine offices to make life easier for the people we serve,” Healey said

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