Credit: Eliza Wiley / MTFP

HELENA — Montana’s largest state agency, which is responsible for foster care and Child Protective Services, Medicaid and other social welfare programs, is undergoing a substantial reorganization under Director Adam Meier.

The reshuffling of long-term employees in a department of approximately 3,000 staffers involves changes in title and the creation of new job descriptions, according to a copy of an internal email written by Meier, obtained by Montana Free Press, and announced publicly by DPHHS later on Monday.

In the internal announcement to DPHHS employees, Meier said the reorganization is driven by an “organizational health assessment” that’s been underway since he took the reins of the agency earlier this year. Meier, who headed a similar agency in Kentucky under that state’s former Republican governor, was appointed in January and confirmed by the state Senate in March.

“At DPHHS we are tasked with great responsibility. We deliver services to some of the most vulnerable Montanans on a daily basis, and come into contact with people at some of the most critical moments of their lives,” Meier wrote to staff members on Monday afternoon. “This agency does our best to protect children from harm, help provide health coverage to thousands of eligible Montanans, promote healthy living and address food insecurity, among all the other key services we provide. We must always continue to improve every day.”

In a subsequent public release about the changes, DPHHS said that no positions are being eliminated in the reorganization and that new roles “are being repurposed from existing vacancies and/or anticipated to be funded through federal funding streams.”

 “We deliver services to some of the most vulnerable Montanans on a daily basis, and come into contact with people at some of the most critical moments of their lives … We must always continue to improve every day.”

DPHHS Director Adam Meier

An updated organizational chart shows that several of the new positions will report directly to Meier, including a chief financial officer, chief information officer and the Office of Inspector General, formerly known as the Quality Assurance Division.

Seasoned DPHHS employees are slated to head up other newly created positions, according to Meier’s email, including a chief innovation officer to oversee Medicaid waivers and pilot programs for human services, and an external relations director who will head a division that communicates with providers, community partners, the Legislature and regulatory agencies. 

Staff members will be shuffled to oversee programs under the umbrella of economic services, such as disability employment and child and family services. The position to oversee Medicaid and health services programs, including the addictive and mental disorders division and the developmental services division, is now vacant and waiting to be filled.

Beneath those banner titles are other roles that indicate some of Meier’s priorities for the department, such as a yet-to-be-filled faith and community-based services coordinator who Meier said will help “increase recruitment of more foster parents from the faith-based community,” according to the internal email. 

“I believe we can truly make some inroads with this position and increase foster parent recruitment, as well as engage other community partners in our work,” Meier said, adding that the position may assist with vaccine outreach to faith-based organizations and their members.

Meier said one major goal of the changes is to “bolster our communication efforts,” including those with health care and service providers, a workforce upon which he said the department relies heavily. The director said he hopes to create a job for a provider relations coordinator who can help improve “customer service” and engagement of relevant stakeholders.

The reorganization is already underway, the department said, and will continue for “several months.” The public announcement said the process of notifying external groups, including lawmakers, tribal partners and providers, is also beginning Monday. 

latest stories

Interior Secretary signs CSKT water compact

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland formally executed the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes water compact Friday, finalizing a long-running effort to negotiate an agreement that reconciles the tribes’ historic treaty rights with Montana’s modern water rights doctrine.

Montana hospitals in ‘dire’ straits as COVID rages

This week, hospitals from Billings to Missoula are instituting or preparing to institute a “crisis standard of care” under which medical services and supplies are rationed. While case numbers are still slightly lower than they were last winter during the virus’ previous peak, hospitals are being overwhelmed with COVID patients.

Mara covers Montana’s social welfare, criminal justice and legal systems. She also tracks policy and social issues that affect LGBTQ+ people. Prior to joining Montana Free Press, Mara worked at Slate and WNYC, where she focused on radio and podcasts. She got her start in audio journalism as an intern at Montana Public Radio. Contact Mara at msilvers@montanafreepress.org, 406-465-3386 ext. 3, and follow her on Twitter.