Wyoming Looks to Merge Department of Health, Family Services

As the state ramps up its legislative session, Wyoming lawmakers are considering a merger of the state departments of Health and Family Services.

When Director Tom Forslund took on the oversight of the Department of Family Services last year, in addition to his position as director of the Department of Health, he was asked by the governor and lawmakers to look into what it would look like to merge the two entities.

Wyoming Department of Family Services Director Tom Forslund

In an interview with The Chronicle of Social Change last year, he said:

What we need to do is look at Family Services and the operations and activities that the department oversees, and see if there’s overlap and ways to gain efficiencies. At this point in time, I’m not ready to say if it’s a good idea or a bad idea. We will be looking at the operations and metrics to determine how they compare internally and to other states across the country.

Last week, Forslund announced that, in his view, it does indeed make sense to merge the two agencies, according to an article in WyoFile, a non-profit news site. Citing an overlap of clients by more than 80 percent, Forslund said the fusing of the two agencies will include financial savings and efficiencies through shared support staff.

Wyoming’s Joint Appropriations Committee (JAC) voted to sponsor a bill that would make permanent the merger of the two agencies.

The proposed merger doesn’t come without concern from some legislators, according to the WyoFile report. Both House Labor and Health Committee Chairman Eric Barlow and State Sen. Charles Scott, his co-chairman, have pointed out potential issues. During the JAC meeting, Barlow said his concerns are for the difficult job of DFS caseworkers, who work closely with people on challenging family issues.

Forslund has overseen the Department of Health for seven years, and according to the WyoFile report will exit the position in 2019 when Gov. Matt Mead leaves office as well.

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Kim Phagan-Hansel
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