- Associated Press - Friday, February 6, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder signed an order Friday merging two social services agencies into the new Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in a bid to improve outcomes for those in need of public assistance with more coordination among government programs.

The 14,200-employee agency will begin operating in two months as the largest in state government, surpassing the Department of Corrections’ 12,400 workers.

The Republican governor, who first announced the merger in his Jan. 20 State of the State address, named Nick Lyon to lead the new agency. He’s already director of the Department of Community Health and interim director of the Department of Human Services - the two agencies being merged.

“If you’re not slicing and dicing up the individual into many different programs, it will certainly help them get the services they need,” Lyon told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “The outcome shouldn’t be, ‘How many people have you served in this program or how has long has he been in this program or how many payments did you send out?’ It should really be, ‘How do we get this person back to self-sufficiency?’”

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, filling in because Snyder was hospitalized with a blood clot, announced the order and Lyon’s appointment at an appearance before the Michigan Press Association’s annual conference in Grand Rapids.

In the order, which will be officially filed Monday, Snyder combined children’s services into one agency and restructured an office geared toward the elderly. Most licensing functions in the current Office of Children and Adult Services will be transferred from the Human Services Department to the state’s licensing agency.

Lyon said he wants to quickly determine “where we’re siloed, where there’s fragmentation.” The consolidation is not about layoffs but making front-line workers’ jobs easier, he said.

The two agencies account for about $24 billion, or 46 percent, of the $52 billion state budget. The spending covers Medicaid health insurance for the poor, cash assistance, food stamps, help with energy bills and child care, child protective services and foster care.

Other functions include disease surveillance, tobacco cessation, newborn screenings and vital records collection.

Snyder has said he wants to realign or eliminate at least 145 programs in the two departments, though it’s unclear how much can be done if federal funding is involved.

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Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00


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