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Second Round of Texas Sunset Commission Proposes ‘Mega-agency’

On Nov. 12, 2014, the Texas Sunset Commission presented round two of the 2014-2016 review cycle. This hearing was to present the commission’s recommendations on the following agencies:

  • Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities
  • Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities
  • Texas Council on Purchasing from People with Disabilities
  • Texas Health Services Authority
  • Health and Human Services Commission and System Issues (includes Interagency Task Force for Children With Special Needs)
  • Office of Inspector General (Health and Human Services Commission)
  • Texas Education Agency (includes State Board for Educator Certification)
  • Entry Criteria for Self-Directed Semi-Independent Agencies

A special presentation was also put on by DFPS on the Child Protective Services Transformation Report to the Sunset Commission, which was missing the “Business Plan” promised for October 2014.

But a key issue was the proposed consolidation of the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), and the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) into a single Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) “Mega-agency”. The intent of the proposed consolidation is a continuation of HB-2292 from the 78th Legislature that consolidated 12 agencies into the five we now have in an effort to reduce service fragmentation, while improving accountability and manageability. While on the surface appears to be a move in a positive direction.

But there are serious concerns.

The suggested consolidation raises questions as to what would happen to the Sunset oversight of DADS, DARS, DSHS and DFPS. Many already feel that the 12-year cycle for DFPS is far too long, requesting it be reduced to six; allowing one cycle to sync with the judicial agencies while having the second synced with HHSC as it is now.

Another concern is the combining of the five executive councils into a single one under HHSC. HB-2292 pretty much stripped the rule-making ability of these agencies out of statute. The conversion of the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (DPRS) into DFPS (via Section 1.11) resulted in the removal of certain family preservation protections, by switching from an administrative board to a council. Then in 2005, SB-6, SECTION 1.129. REPEALER. The following provisions of the
Human Resources Code are repealed:

(1) Subdivision (1), Section 40.001;

(2) Section 40.028;

(3) Section 40.029;

(4) Subsections (b) and (c), Section 40.0305; and

(5) Subsection (c), Section 43.010.

Of particular concern was the repeal of both §40.028 and §40.029 which read as follows:

§40.028. General Duties of Board; Delegation

a. The board shall govern the department.

b. The board shall:

1. supervise the executive director’s administration and enforcement of the laws of this state that impose duties on the department or board; and

2. develop and implement policies that clearly separate the policy making responsibilities of the board and the management responsibilities of the executive director and the staff of the department.

c. The board may delegate to the executive director, or to the person acting as executive director in the executive director’s absence, any power or duty imposed on the board or department by law, including the authority to make final orders or decisions, except that the board may not delegate the power or duty to adopt rules. The delegation of a power or duty must be in writing.

 

§40.029. Rules

a. The board shall propose and adopt rules to:

1. ensure the department’s compliance with state and federal law; and

2. facilitate the implementation of departmental programs.

b. The board shall propose and adopt rules that further the policy of family preservation.

Without that control mechanism, we lost a great deal.

If they were to consolidate services, but leave the agencies as function client bases, we might see some real improvements. Under the current structure, many of the caseworkers have absolutely very little concept of how to deliver proper services to their clients. This seems to be very prevalent in DFPS. Far too often we hear of caseworkers telling the courts that services are being offered, but the families are not actually receiving delivery of those services.

I’ve been a personal witness to families that have had children removed for more than five years, but received absolutely nothing in the form of reunification services.

So it is true—we need to remove these fragmentation of services. What is important here is that the clients that need them can get them. Consolidating all the services under one company is important, but the delivery should be based on the targeted client base.

Another area of concern is the “advisory councils” under issue 13. It is very important that these councils remain intact so that the target clients receive the services needed.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) also caught a great deal of flack, mostly over the handling of it’s investigation of Medicaid fraud. Frankly, the hearing indicated that the OIG investigations were many times worse than DFPS investigations in failing to deliver timely findings. While we are often upset over 45-60 day investigations into child abuse, these OIG investigations remain open for a multitude of years while maintaining a credit hold over Medicaid providers tying up millions in funds. This often results  in the bankruptcy of the provider.

While there was much testimony over the fraud investigations, almost nothing was said about the OIG investigations into the integrity of its child agencies. Nothing was said about the concerns about the agency appearing to be designed to fail as a previous Watchdogwire article indicated.

Any one feeling a need to comment on these proposed changes to HHSC should turn in written testimony to the commission by 5pm Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. To get a handle on what was said please watch the archives for the two hearings: Nov. 12 and Public Testimony on the 13.

Featured image courtesy of Texas Sunset Commission Facebook page

Jim Black

Jim Black is the founder of Angel Eyes over Texas. Jim is a former Manufacturing Engineer turned CPS Watchdog. Jim spent more than 32 years studying manufacturing companies, their procedures and the proper application of their resources. Now those same skills are applied toward analyzing Texas DFPS and it's functions; breaking down the mechanics of how the agency fails to follow the policies, statutes and rules set forth by the State of Texas. Jim tracks all changes to the CPS Handbook on www.aeovrt.org. Jim also provides defense attorneys with handbook research.

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