Being efficient in government not only means saving taxpayer dollars, it means improving the services we provide to our citizens.
Last week, the director of the largest state agency presented a new plan designed to ensure that the 1.2 million Arkansans served by the Department of Human Services are getting the best care in the most efficient way possible. The plan was presented to the Arkansas Health Reform Legislative Task Force.
Through a blend of federal and state Medicaid funds, DHS pays for 64 percent of the babies born in Arkansas each year and for the care of 69 percent of the state's nursing home patients. Additionally, DHS protects children and the elderly who have been abused; finds adoptive homes for foster children; funds home-delivered meals for the elderly; regulates nursing homes and childcare facilities; serves youth in the juvenile justice system; oversees services for blind Arkansans; runs residential facilities for people with developmental disabilities; manages the Arkansas State Hospital and Arkansas Health Center; and supports nonprofit, community and faith-based organizations that depend on volunteers to continue programs vital to our communities.
With over 7,500 employees and so many lives depending on their services, it is easy to understand why their day to day operations are of critical importance to all of us.
At the taskforce meeting, Director Cindy Gillespie informed members that the agency is implementing a new organizational structure aimed at creating more accountability for each functional role. Although the new positions created and/or re-structured will initially create new cost of $266,536, the efficiencies created will allow the agency to turn back 25 positions at a salary cost of $597,583.
The agency also reported it is reviewing $174 million worth of contracts and is committed to identifying $25 million in savings from its payment integrity unit for the next fiscal year.
During the meeting, DHS reported that the agency is on track to implement the changes we recently passed to create Arkansas Works. Right now more than 283,000 Arkansans are receiving coverage through the Private Option. Another 634,000 residents are receiving benefits through traditional Medicaid.
Our job as legislators is to ensure that our districts are receiving the services they need. So each of us will continue to review any proposed changes by DHS and provide you with accurate information.