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Restructuring the “Beast” of the Health & Social Services Department

Jan 5, 2022

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy will issue an executive order to restructure the Department of Health and Social Services into two departments in the upcoming legislative session. The Department’s Commissioner, Adam Crum, addresses the efficiencies and potential innovation brought by the reorganization in an interview on FirstHand, the podcast.

With the budget the size of 12 other departments, and the staff tally as many as six departments, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is described as a “beast” by Commissioner Crum on FirstHand, the podcast. Commissioner Crum tells Host Patty Sullivan how splitting the department into two will provide a better level of service, gain efficiencies, and provide room for innovation.

The executive order will divide the Department of Health and Social Services into the Department of Health and the Department of Family and Community Services. The Department of Health will include:

  • the Division of Public Health
  • the Division of Behavioral Health
  • the Division of Healthcare Services
  • the Division of Senior and Disabilities Services, which all provide regulatory oversight, claims processing and facility licensing of Medicaid programs. 

The Department of Family and Community Service will include:

  • the Division of Juvenile Justice
  • the Office of Children’s Services
  • the Alaska Pioneer Homes
  • the Alaska Psychiatric Institute 

Crum said his team engaged with stakeholders over the last year on the idea of separating Medicaid from the public-facing divisions to allow more time to focus on how those services are managed. He said an executive team of five people manage some 3,500 employees. By narrowing the scope of work in each department, the agencies will be better able to implement system improvements and facilitate better services for Alaskans, and he says, make innovations.

“There’s a lot of decision points that need to come up, be discussed, and decisions made,” said Commissioner Crum. “When we look at our Pioneer Homes, we have aging population in Alaska — how are we going to care for these elders who wish to stay in Alaska. The Pioneer Homes have a lot of issues when it comes to deferred maintenance, possibly even new construction. Do we need to expand items like this? And this is a conversation that needs to be had amongst the division, the Governor’s Office, the Legislature, and the public.”

Services will not be disrupted for Alaskans. The biggest change will be internal, he said. The State is committed to ensuring continuity of services to beneficiaries and timely payments to providers. Avoiding such disruptions will be each department’s highest priority, the restructuring website states. View that website and FAQs at

FirstHand is a podcast produced in the Office of Governor Mike Dunleavy. Click here to listen.