Gov. Kelly announces plan to consolidate social service agencies

Just days before the state of the 2020 legislative session, Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday announced a move to create a new state agency that will consolidate numerous social service programs that affect Kansas families and children.

Kelly will submit to the Legislature an executive reorganization order to create the Kansas Department of Human Services. That agency would take in programs at the Kansas Department for Children and Families, the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and the juvenile services division of the Kansas Department of Corrections.

Kelly said the move will improve services and help Kansans who needs those service access them more easily.

For example, Kelly said the new agency will have “a much broader footprint” which, she said, will enable it to better connect youths diverted from the juvenile justice system to community-based programs.

The state has been dealing with an increase in children in the foster care system and problems in placing them in appropriate settings. Kelly, her fellow Democrats and some Republicans, have said that tax cuts pushed through by former Gov. Sam Brownback led to the hollowing out of many social service programs that the state is still trying to fix.

Kelly said Laura Howard, who currently serves as secretary of DCF and KDADS, will take the reins of the new agency on July 1.

Howard said many functions now housed in different agencies would move under one agency, including foster care, children’s mental health, child protective services, juvenile justice services, adult protective services, adult behavioral health, Kansas’ four state hospitals and the Kansas juvenile corrections complex.

Kelly said she would submit her executive reorganization order to the Legislature within 30 days. The order will take effect July 1 unless either the House or Senate rejects it.

House Republican leaders issued a statement criticizing Kelly, a Democrat, saying that she didn’t tell them in advance about the reorganization proposal. The statement didn’t reject the plan but the leaders said they would analyze it closely. The 2020 session starts Monday.

Share this post