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Fall 2003 Table of Contents
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Consolidation Activities Begin

Terrell I. Murphy, Executive Director, Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind)

Abstract: This article reviews the consolidation of health and human service agencies, particularly the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. Initial consolidation of human resource, accounting and administrative departments has already occurred and public hearings have commenced.

Keywords: Consolidation; health and human services; HHSC; services to the blind; rehabilitation

In March I told See/Hear readers I didn't have a crystal ball into the legislative session. The only two things we knew for sure at that time were that the state was in an economic bind and that several bills had been filed to reorganize parts of state government, including health and human services. It was impossible to make accurate predictions about the future of services to blind Texans at that time because the state's economic situation, combined with the filing of several bills that proposed sweeping changes to health and human services, made accurate predictions on the effects on services to blind Texans impossible.

Well, it's the third week in September as I write this, and I still don't have a crystal ball. Most of you know by now that Texas will begin transitioning to a consolidated health and human service system. Transition to the consolidated system will be governed by a "Transition Plan" to be developed by HHSC and submitted to the Governor and the Legislative Budget Board by December 1, 2003. The Transition Plan will reflect the initial vision and timelines for the transformation to a consolidated system. Since it is anticipated that the full consolidation of HHS agencies and functions will take place over the next four to six years, modifications to the plan will be developed, reviewed and submitted as appropriate. Some of the consolidation and streamlining efforts have already begun, such as the consolidation of all human resource (personnel) functions from multiple agencies into HHSC and the migration to a common automated system for accounting and administrative transactions. The performance of administrative support services for all the entire health and human services system will be the responsibility of the HHSC.

H.B. 2292 by Representative Arlene Wohlgemuth is the bill that governs the transition process. The operations of the existing 12 Health and Human Services Agencies will be realigned by consolidating similar functions within 5 agencies. The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) , as well as the Texas Rehabilitation Commission, Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and the Interagency Council on Early Childhood Intervention, will be abolished and all the powers, duties, functions, programs, and activities of the current agencies will be transferred to a new Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS). There will also be three other new departments and the Health and Human Services Commission. The other new departments are:

  1. Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS),
  2. Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), and
  3. Department of State Health Services (DSHS).

The bill also created a Health and Human Services Transition Legislative Oversight Committee to facilitate the HHS agency consolidation with minimal disruption of services and to provide ongoing guidance on the health and human services delivery system in Texas. The Committee will consist of two Senators appointed by the Lieutenant Governor, two Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House, and 3 public members appointed by the Governor. The executive commissioner will serve as an ex-officio member.

The Committee held their organizational meeting on September 12th in Austin. The HHSC will conduct public hearings throughout the state to take public input in to the transition plan beginning on September 15th and lasting through September 25th. The Transition Committee will meet again in October to take testimony on the draft plan and the plan will be submitted to the Governor by December 1, 2003.

Although the consolidation activities have just begun, we have been assured by HHSC that there will be a separate division for the blind within DARS and that they do not want to disrupt services to our consumers. Our intent is to remain the premier service division in the nation in providing services to persons who are blind. Keep tuned for more changes as they occur.

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Last Revision: September 1, 2010