Agency of Human Services

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Vermont’s Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living says allowing adults with developmental disabilities to make more of their own decisions will help them to live independent and healthy lives.

Peter Hirschfeld / VPR/file

Vermont is taking a hard look at how it treats people with mental illness in its prisons.

The Vermont Senate has given its preliminary approval to the biggest restructuring of state government in almost 50 years. Backers of the plan say it's needed to help control health care spending and to properly fund essential social service programs. But Gov. Peter Shumlin opposes this change.

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The Shumlin administration is planning to scuttle existing plans for major technology upgrades that would centralize social services data for the Agency of Human Services. 

Alden Pellett / AP/File

Doug Racine spent more than 30 years in state government, most recently as the secretary of the Agency of Human Services. After several high-profile issues involving the Agency of Human Services, Gov. Shumlin removed Racine from his position in the summer of 2014. Now, Racine works with the American Public Human Services Association in Washington, D.C., and reaches out to newly appointed human services leaders in other states to help them navigate the challenges of running such an agency.

The Agency of Human Services announced Friday that seven Vermont communities will be part of a new, two-year program to help vulnerable children.

The “Promise Communities” will get guidance from  Promise Community coaches to develop a plan that will unite education, social services, health care and the private sector “to create an all-of-the-above, comprehensive approach to transforming communities to better support children with high needs,” according to a news release.

The communities are:

Toby Talbot / AP Photo

The Agency of Human Services is the largest division of state government, and it serves the most vulnerable Vermonters. It's also undergone a lot of turnover in leadership this year, with particular scrutiny on the Department for Children and Families. We speak with the new secretary of Human Services, Hal Cohen.  For the last 18 years, he's lead Capstone Community Action and now he brings that non-profit background into state government.

Taylor Dobbs / VPR

State officials say more staffing at the Department for Children and Families and more accountability to the public will go a long way to strengthen the state’s child protective services.

Those steps are part of an action plan Gov. Peter Shumlin requested after public outcry following the deaths of two toddlers under DCF supervision earlier this year.

Toby Talbot / AP File Photo

Gov. Peter Shumlin announced some major changes at the top of the troubled Agency of Human Services Tuesday.

Doug Racine, who has served as Secretary of Human Services since Shumlin took over the governor’s office in 2011, is stepping down. Health Commissioner Harry Chen is replacing Racine and will serve as interim secretary through 2014. During that time, Deputy Health Commissioner Tracy Dolan will serve as the head of the department.

Shumlin acknowledged that the agency, which is responsible for a large portion of the state’s social services, is not easy to run.