Debate continues over merging Health and Human Services Departments

North Dakota’s Department of Health and Department of Human Services could soon become one, as a bill to merge the two agencies is making headway through the legislature.

The expansive 263-page bill mostly updates references to the name of the departments, opting for a singular health and human services department. According to the bill’s fiscal note, it’s not expected to cost any money, as both departments’ existing budgets would be combined.

Bill supporters say joining the agencies could bring to light any overlap in work, and create more efficiency to potentially save money.

“I think the governor’s often talked about reinventing government, North Dakota smart. This is the opportunity for them, when they lay them side-by-side, and say OK, yeah, maybe the first thing is we don’t need two HRs,” Rep. Robin Weisz said.

Currently, there are about 200 people employed with the Department of Health, and roughly 2,600 in the Department of Human Services. The Senate Human Services Committee did not yet vote on the bill, but it passed in the House last month 73 to 21.

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