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Bill merging Health and Human Services with UDOH passes committee

The Utah Department of Health is urging residents to continue with diligence in efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as Utah reports 4,672 new COVID-19 cases Thursday. (Credit: Paul Nelson)

A merger of the Utah Department of Health with the Department of Human Services moved a step forward when the House Health and Human Services Committee approved HB365 Thursday. The bill gives the leaders of the two departments until the end of 2021 to create a plan for the merger, which would then take effect July 1, 2022.

The sponsor, Rep. Paul Ray (R-Clearfield), told the committee Thursday he’s confident the two departments can work out the details.

“As a legislature, I don’t want to dictate every move they do,” Ray said. “I want them to come back to us and say, ‘This is what we are going to do and allow us to evaluate at that point.”

The goal, the lawmaker said, is to achieve efficiencies in the departments by eliminating “silos,” or areas where each department serves the same clients.

“We’ll try to break down those silos and get communication going so people aren’t going to two, three, four different places to get services,” Ray told the committee.

In previous comments to KSL NewsRadio, Ray said there’s no intent in the plan to eliminate jobs.

Carrie Butler, a lobbyist for the Utah Public Health Association, said many of the health department workers she represents are resigned to the likelihood the merger will take place. But, she said, “People were excited about the prospect of creating more efficiencies,”  adding that they want to be consulted as the process moves ahead.

Butler said her group would like to see the plan studied during the interim between legislative sessions.