Department of Human Services

Entity: 1116
Entity Type: State Government


The Utah Department of Human Services was organized in 1967 as the Department of Health and Welfare. The department's mission is the prevention of social, emotional, and related problems of the people of Utah. Originally named the Department of Health and Welfare, the Department of Human Services was also was known as the Department of Social Services from 1969 to 1990.

Biography/History Notes

The department was created to prevent and resolve the social problems which inhibit the physical, mental, and social well-being of the citizens of Utah. DHS is authorized to license, certify, and monitor social services programs to ensure compliance with department/ division policies and standards. In addition to being "the mental health and welfare authority for the state", DHS was designated "the agency for federally assisted state programs in these areas" (i.e., Title XIX and Title XX). It also functions under the federal Social Security Act.

A full-time, salaried executive director appointed by the Governor and approved by the State Senate heads the Department of Human Services. The executive director has administrative jurisdiction over all division directors as well as the authority to consolidate personnel and service functions within divisions. The coordinating council provided for in the 1967 enabling act was abolished in 1969.

Prior to the creation of DHS, public health and welfare services were provided by various boards and agencies, principally the Public Health and Public Welfare (UTSVH01284-A) departments. A study of state government operations by the Commission on the Organization of the Executive Branch of Government (UTSVH00597-A) in 1965, Utah's "Little Hoover Commission", recommended that agencies providing similar services be consolidated to provide more efficiency. To more efficiently manage the administration and delivery of social service programs, the Department of Public Welfare, the Department of Public Health, the State Board of Corrections (UTSVH00142-A), the Board of Pardons (UTSVH00754-A), the Commission of State Indian Affairs, the Utah Committee on Indian Affairs, and "similar and affiliated agencies" were consolidated into a single department in 1967.

The newly formed Department of Health and Welfare consisted of the divisions of Welfare (UTSVH00410-A), Health (UTSVH00484-A), Mental Health (UTSVH00643-A), Indian Affairs (UTSVH00524-A), and Corrections (UTSVH00229-A). The Division of Aging (UTSVH00002-A) was added in 1968 (and was renamed the Division of Aging and Adult Services in 1985). The Division of Welfare was renamed the Division of Family Services in 1969. The Division of Drugs was created in 1970. It was merged with the Committee on Alcoholism in 1971 to form the Division of Alcoholism and Drugs (UTSVH00026-A).

The trend toward unification of services accelerated after a 1971 study of the Department of Social Services that called for a number of changes. The Office of Administrative Services (UTSVH01117-A) began in 1972. The State Office of Assistance Payments Administration (UTSVH00049-A) was created in 1973. The Office of Evaluation and Quality Control began operation in 1973, as did the Office of Veterans' Affairs (UTSVH01257-A). The offices of Medical Services, Community Operations (UTSVH00715-A), and Planning and Research were added in 1975. The offices of Constituent Services and Management Audit were added in 1977.

A public information officer was utilized in the mid-to-late 1970s. The position was dissolved, then restored in the mid 1980s. In 1979, the Office of Veterans' Affairs was terminated and the Division of Indian Affairs was transferred to the Department of Community and Economic Development (UTSVH00181-A). The Division of Health was given independent status in 1980, becoming a department (UTSVH00484-A) in 1981.

In 1981, the legislature altered the Division of Family Services (DFS) by creating a separate Division of Youth Corrections (UTSVH01360-A). DSS then split DFS into the Division of Children, Youth, and Families and the Division of Developmental Disabilities and Mental Retardation (DD/MR). DD/MR and the Office of Handicapped Services (originally established within the Division of Health by executive order in December 1979) merged to form the Division of Handicapped Services (UTSVH00283-A) in 1983 and the Division of Children, Youth, and Families was again named the Division of Family Services. The Office of Community Operations (UTSVH00715-A) was also created in 1983. Legislative action in 1985 made the Division of (Adult) Corrections a distinct department. In addition, the Office of Recovery Services (UTSVH00849-A) became an independent division.

The Office of Licensing (UTSVH00600-A) was created in 1987 and the Division of Alcoholism and Drugs became the Division of Substance Abuse in 1988. The department was again reorganized in 1990, being renamed the Department of Human Services. The divisions of Family Services, Services to the Handicapped, and Youth Corrections are now administered by the Office of Social Services (UTSVH00750-A). Other agencies include the divisions of Aging and Adult Services, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse, and the offices of Family Support (UTSVH01812-A), Licensing, and Recovery Services.