Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Governor Planning to Merge 4 Agencies in Health, Welfare

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Governor Planning to Merge 4 Agencies in Health, Welfare

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG - Facing deepening budget woes, Gov. Tom Wolf wants to merge into a single department four agencies that oversee Pennsylvania's massive health and public welfare programs, according to an email that circulated Friday to state employees who would be affected by the proposal.

Mr. Wolf wants to consolidate the Departments of Aging, Health, Human Services, and Drug and Alcohol Programs, according to the email, which was sent by the secretaries who oversee those departments. An official announcement is scheduled for Monday, according to the message.

It provided no details on how much the merger would save the state or how it would affect state employee jobs. Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott said he could not comment, deferring to Monday's announcement.

Mr. Abbott also said the proposed merger would require legislative approval.

David Fillman, executive director of AFSCME Council 13, said he would like to see the details of the governor's plan to better assess its impact on jobs.

"We've never really, on a grand scale like this, done this before, so I'm not sure exactly what that means," he said.

Earlier this week, Gary Tennis, who headed the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, said he was fired because he opposed the governor's plan to consolidate his agency.

The Wolf administration has not publicly discussed the reasons for Mr. Tennis' abrupt dismissal. It came after a newspaper reported that Mr. Tennis directed a prospective employee to interview for a job in his department with a longtime advocate in Harrisburg who also lobbies him on behalf of treatment centers.

Mr. Tennis denied that allegation during a news conference he called Wednesday, saying his decision to hire the person was made long before she met with the advocate.

"I'm not going to be a part of the repeal of the drug and alcohol civil rights act," he said Wednesday. …

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