- Associated Press - Monday, May 15, 2017

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The director of the Wyoming Department of Health will add oversight of the Department of Family Services to his duties in an arrangement that could eventually lead to merging the two agencies to save money, state officials announced Monday.

The change comes as Wyoming continues to struggle with declining revenue from the coal, oil and natural gas industries and with Department of Family Services Director Steve Corsi departing June 1 for a job in another state.

Health Department Director Tom Forslund will hold both jobs through the end of Mead’s term in early 2019. Mead has meanwhile asked for ideas to improve efficiency between the two agencies, Forslund said.

“We’re not going to wait 18 months to make a decision by any means, but ultimately I’ll make a recommendation or present some recommendations to the governor,” Forslund said.

Those ideas might include a merger recommendation. The federal government and other states combine health and family services within a single agency, Forslund pointed out.

In the meantime, Forslund plans to appoint an acting administrator for the Department of Family Services to report to him - just as administrators of the Health Department’s Aging, Public Health, Behavioral Health and Healthcare Financing divisions do now.

The Health Department has a roughly $2 billion biennial budget, or almost 10 times bigger than the Department of Family Services’ $236 million budget.

Areas where the two agencies already work together include foster child planning, Forslund said, but it’s too soon to speculate whether any positions might be eliminated.

Forslund, who makes $203,000 a year, won’t be getting a raise, Mead officials said.

Mead already has made steep cuts over the past couple years to address falling revenue from fossil-fuel extraction. At the University of Wyoming, trustees voted last week to lay off workers in 37 non-faculty staff positions and eliminate five degree programs.

Wyoming also faces a looming public education shortfall of over $350 million.

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Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver

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