State Releases Transition Plan for the merger of Utah Departments of Health & Human Services by July 1, 2022

SALT LAKE CITY (Dec. 1, 2021)—Today, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and the Utah Department of Human Services (DHS) submitted its Transition Plan to the governor and legislature as outlined in State Agency Realignment (H.B. 365, 2021). The Transition Plan outlines the recommendations, tasks, and path forward to become a legally operational Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) by July 1, 2022. 

“Over the past nine months, thousands have participated in meetings, submitted feedback via forms, surveys and focus groups, and actively worked alongside us to gather, evaluate, inform, and align the elements of our departments to best serve the people of Utah,” said Tracy Gruber, current DHS executive director and Governor Spencer Cox appointee as executive director of DHHS beginning July 1, 2022. “This consolidation process has allowed us to not only identify challenges and barriers to accessing care for those most in need, but also opportunities to unify services, reduce redundancies, improve equity, and offer more efficient services.”

Some highlights of the DHHS Transition Plan include:

  • Budget categorization of $5.5 billion in expenditures (Medicaid and CHIP programs = $4 billion of this total) 
  • How departments engaged thousands of public and staff
  • Efforts to avoid disruption of services, 180 federal grants, and 3,332 contracts
  • Plan to retain all 5,617 employees and 164 public facing facilities across the state
  • The planning process and organizational structure
  • Alignment of overlapping and complementary programs and services, including integrating physical and behavioral health with Medicaid, federal waiver programs in long-term services and supports, and suicide prevention and substance use education
  • Reviewed 1,600 pages of existing code and identified areas in need of legislative action
  • Actions towards improving customer experience and performance outcomes
  • Appointment of an Executive Medical Director
  • Priorities for technology improvements
  • Reporting timeline for implementation progress

“Merging these departments will not only be an opportunity to identify and address redundant functions, it will combine practice approaches and make services more robust,” said Nate Checketts, UDOH executive director and DHS deputy director of Healthcare Administration. “Each department’s approach has its own unique strengths; bringing them into alignment will help us be more innovative and performance driven and enhance our ability to support those who use our services.”

Updates on DHHS implementation will be posted with the Transition Plan every two weeks at until the departments are legally one on July 1, 2022. Questions and ideas are encouraged through the DHHS consolidation feedback form.