Department of Health, Human Services set to begin merger

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The amount of state departments in North Dakota is about to change as two are set to become one.

The North Dakota Department of Human Services and the Department of Health will soon begin the journey to becoming the Department of Health and Human Services.

Step one is bringing in a national consultant who’s worked on similar integrations.

“It’s kind of like an integrated agency to provide more services, better services and ensure that there is like one path for our citizens to get the services they need,” explained Dr. Nizar Wehbi, the North Dakota State Health Officer.

When the decision was made to merge the departments, one of the main criteria was nobody would be losing their job.

Officials say instead it will give their little more than 2,400 full-time employees opportunities they did not have before.

“How do we look at all the space that the department of human services has, the department of health and how do we create that new workplace that really is an opportunity for employees to work together, nd also employees to collaborate and innovate?” explained Chris Jones, the Executive Director for the NDDHS.

One of the main reasons for the merge is the services as a majority of them cross paths on a daily basis.

“It will allow us also to identify some of the gaps or the needs that North Dakotans are seeking,” explained Dr. Wehbi.

“So if you really take it from a standing in the shoe of someone from North Dakota, oftentimes you may have a physical health need and a behavioral health need,” explained Jones.

The departments are set to become one in September of 2022 but these changes have been in the talks for almost two decades.

The decision to make the merge came this past legislative session, with a vote of 47 to 12.

The two departments have already begun by having conversations with their staff about how it all will work.

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