Mayor Marion Barry proposed yesterday a reorganization of the D.C. Department of Human Resources that would keep the city's largest and costliest agency intact while separating its health and social services functions.
In addition to trimming the size of the department's front office and removing the department director from day-to-day supervison of operations, the reorganization would give DHR a new name -- the Department of Human Serivces.
"this is more a management accountability reorganization than a news conference. "The problem (with DHR) is not its vastness, but its organization and administration."
With 8,298 authorized employes and an annual budget of $440 million in both local tax funds and federal grants, DHR is the largest single city agency under mayoral control. Only the public school system, which is independeltly administered, has more employes -- 11,765.
By proposing the new internal structure, Barry rejected -- at least for now -- the idea of dismantling the department by splitting it again into the separate health and welfare agencies that were merged in 1970. During last year's mayoral campaign, he often talked about such a split.
But yesterday he said that "merely separating medical and socail services would not create the high qulity service delivery system which our citizens need."
But if the restructuring does not work, city administrator Elijah B. Rogers said, the way remains open for a future total split.
Barry sent the reorganization proposal to the City Council for its review. The reorganization will take effect in 60 days -- in mid-February -- unless the council votes in the meantime to disapprove it.
Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), chairman of the council's Human Resources Committee, attended the news conference and voiced her support.
The reorganization would keep the department under the overall control of one director appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council. Serving directly under the director would be two new high-level officials, each with the new title of "commissioner" -- a commissioner of public health, and a commissioner of social services.
Barry stressed that the two commissioners would be both the chief executives and administration spokesmen in the fields they would oversee.
No one has yet been selected to direct the reorganized department or to fill either commissioner post, Barry said. He said the city probalby would conduct a nationwide search for candidates.
His statement left uncertain the tenure of Albert P. Russo, the current DHR director and one of only four civilian department heads serving when Barry came into office last January who still hold his job.
While praising Russo's loyalty, Barry said "no one is granted an a automatic position" in his administration. Both Barry and Russo said the DHR director would continue on the job at least until the reorganization becomes effective.
To attract highly qualified talent for the jobs, Barry disclosed that he expects to recommend that the council remove the present $50,112 limit on executive salaries currently permitted under the city's continued links to the federal civil service system.
The new maximum would be somewhere between $50,112 and the mayor's own salary of $64,000, Barry said. Not everybody earning the present top salary would get a raise, Barry told a reporter.
DHR, often described as the most troubled of city agencies, has been the subject of at least four studies by mayoral and council task forces in recent years. The latest such panel was headed by a Bary special assistant, Dr. Arthur Hoyte.
Most criticisms have been directed at alleged failures of city health facilities to eliver adequate care to low-income residents, and problems -- including a hight but declining error rate -- in the public welfare payments.
To meet administrative problems, Barry said his plan would thin out the DHR front office, cutting its 1,725 employes down to 1,160. While continuing to supervise overall administration, Barry said the director would be responsible for departmental coordination and overall policy and for enforcing performance standards.
The five subordinate agencies, called administrations, whose supervisors all now work directly under Russo, would be split into smaller units working for the two commissioners.
Instead of Russo being directly responsible for all 8,298 employes each of the commissioners would oversee about 3,500 each.
The three existing health administrations -- community health and hospitals, mental health, and substance abuse -- would be divided into five generally smaller units: preventive services, ambulatory care, long-term care, mental health, and alcohol and drug abuse.
The largest of these administratiions, community health and hospitals, now has 2,169 employes. Under the new arrangement, the largest unit would be the long-term care administration, with 1,132.
In social services, the two existing administrations dealing with social rehabilitation and payments assstance (welfare) would be divided into five generally smaller units.
These would deal with mental retardation and developmental disabilities, vocational rehabilitation, youth services, child and family services and income maintenance (welfare).
D.C. General Hospital, the city's largest public health facility, would remain independent of DHR, under control of its own administration.At one time, D.C. General was part of DHR.
The transfers of personnel among units of the reorganized department would not reduce the total number of DHR employes. However, Barry stressed, "the total number of executive-level positions in the department will not be increased" by the reshuffing.