DHS Director: Assessments, Reforms Will Be Ready For 2017 Legislative Session

Arkansas DHS Director Cindy Gillespie speaking on Talk Business & Politics.
Credit Talk Business & Politics

Arkansas Department of Human Services director Cindy Gillespie is moving quickly to implement reforms in the state’s largest agency, and she anticipates the foundation for many policy changes to be laid prior to the 2017 legislative session.

Appearing on Talk Business & Politics, which airs Monday 6:06 p.m. on KUAR, Gillespie said that her reorganization of DHS will allow for more efficiency and effective implementation of existing programs as well as future changes. Last week, she revealed a number of administrative changes to the $8.3 billion agency that oversees more than 7,000 employees.

Next on the agenda: managed care, beginning with a contract for dental managed care. “We’re laying a lot of the foundation right now,” Gillespie said.

She added that behavioral health, developmental disabilities, and long-term care would be a focus between now and end of the year.

“In all of those areas, we are starting a process to put in place, again through a request for procurement, … the ability to do independent assessments, to do care management, to promulgate a lot of the rules. So you’ll see those pieces this year.”

Does Gillespie anticipate all of this work will be done in time for lawmakers and the governor to assess future policy needs by the January 2017 regular legislation session?

“Those will all get lined up by the 2017 session and our plan is to move through both the rules promulgation as well as to go ahead and select a vendor for our independent assessments. All of those will put in place some of the initial savings and structures that allow the governor and the legislature to have a good session looking at where we take DHS next,” said Gillespie.

Gillespie has worked in health care policy for decades as an independent consultant and one-time advisor to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The rural south Georgia native said that Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s leadership style and the ability to get back into hands-on health policy attracted her to the Arkansas DHS role.

“Arkansas is nationally known as a place that is innovative in health policy. And I felt like coming to Arkansas, I could work with the team here to try to see what we could develop in the way of solutions that work in rural communities and not just in urban communities,” she said.

Watch her full interview in the video below: