State Capitol Week in Review
From Senator Larry Teague
April 22, 2016
LITTLE ROCK – During the fiscal session of the legislature the focus of media attention has been on the budget of the state Human Services Department (DHS), which is the single largest state agency.
Public attention focused specifically on the Medicaid program, which is administered by the Human Services Department. However, it’s important to remember that DHS provides numerous other services apart from Medicaid.
For example, employees in the DHS Division of Children and Family Services investigate allegations of abuse and neglect of children. They also recruit foster families to take in children who have been removed from dangerously abusive homes. The division also places children with adoptive parents.
The DHS Division of Aging and Adult Services helps elderly people live independently. Services include home delivered meals, daytime supervision and placement in assisted living centers. The ARChoices in homecare services include making structural changes to a house, such as adding a ramp for a wheelchair or installing railings.
The Division also looks into allegations of abuse or neglect of adults who live in long-term care facilities.
DHS has a Division that helps people who are blind or visually impaired. The department’s Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education operates food programs and funds child care centers for low-income families. It runs a summer food program for children who qualify for free or reduced priced lunches at school, and so they don’t miss meals when school is out for the summer.
The Behavioral Health Services Division funds care and treatment of people with mental illnesses. It operates the State Hospital at Little Rock. In 69 of the 75 Arkansas counties are sites for community based mental health care.
The DHS Division of Youth Services operates juvenile correction facilities, which used to be known as reform schools or training centers.
The Division of Developmental Disabilities Services operates five Human Development Centers at Arkadelphia, Booneville, Conway (formerly known as the Arkansas Children’s Colony), Jonesboro and Warren.
The Arkansas Health Center, formerly known as the Benton Services Center, is a psychiatric nursing home licensed within the DHS Office of Long Term Care. The people who live in the Center have special needs that cannot be provided by most community nursing homes.
The DHS Division of County Operations administers food stamps to low-income families under a program known as SNAP, which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The Division also distributes food and commodities to food banks and emergency shelters, and helps low-income families pay utilities in periods of financial crisis.
The ARKids First program is within DHS. It provides health coverage for about 70,000 Arkansas children. Many of the children live in working class families with incomes that are too high to qualify for traditional Medicaid.
Medicaid is a program administered within the DHS Division of Medical Services. It provides government health care for low-income families, people with disabilities and senior citizens in long-term care facilities. The Division’s Office of Long Term Care investigates complaints against nursing homes, as well as allegations of abuse, neglect, theft of residents’ property and poor quality of care.