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Gov. Whitmer Organizes New Agency to Improve Services for Older Michiganders


October 14, 2021 


Gov. Whitmer Organizes New Agency to Improve Services for Older Michiganders  

The governor's executive order promotes collaboration and delivers services more efficiently as state works to empower seniors with the choice to age in their own home    

LANSING, Mich. - Governor Gretchen Whitmer today signed EO 2021-14 to establish the Health and Aging Services Administration within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). The newly-established agency will provide more coordinated services to Michigan's growing aging population by combining the former MDHHS Aging and Adult Services Agency and Medical Services Administration under one umbrella within MDHHS. Michigan's Medicaid Office is also part of the new Health and Aging Services Administration. 

"Older Michiganders deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and by dedicating resources at the state level, we can ensure they have the resources they need to have a secure retirement, access to high-quality healthcare, attainable, affordable housing, and more," said Governor Whitmer. "The Michigan Department of Health and Human Service's new Health and Aging Services Administration will stay laser-focused on helping aging adults thrive, coordinate effectively across agencies and departments to enact lasting change, and get things done that make a real difference in people's lives."  

The new Health and Aging Services Administration will retain current staff positions, provides for greater collaboration and makes the delivery of MDHHS programs and services to aging adults simpler and more efficient. 

"Long-term care policy will now come from one coordinated area of MDHHS," said Kate Massey, who has been chosen to be senior deputy director of the new administration and previously served in that same role with Medical Services Administration. "We expect these changes to allow smoother transitions across the continuum of care - including for older adults who prefer to age in place. Services to our aging population are a critically important part of MDHHS's work."  

Michigan has more than 2 million adults over age 60, nearly 25% of the state's population. Michiganders 85 and older remains the fastest-growing age group and 37% of Michigan residents are 50 and older. 

The change allows for increased coordination between aging services teams in local communities and in-house employees who are responsible for developing policies, as well as improved analysis of processes and results, and expanded capacity across programs and services.  

"These changes to our structure will lead to a better plan for aging Michiganders, and they are founded on suggestions from those we serve," said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. "Although not a redesign of services, this change is important because it will improve upon the delivery of those services and ensure alignment with our values. Our customers who benefit from our adult and aging programs will appreciate a stronger connection with our Medicaid services." 

Long-term support services have been delivered through multiple areas of MDHHS, making coordination challenging. The change will address those challenges by:

  • Providing additional capacity to serve the intentions of older adults who prefer to age in place - defined by the CDC as "the ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably." 
  • Increasing speed in the delivery of services. 
  • Aligning with long-term care support and services to community-based services through the federal Older Americans Act; the MI Choice Waiver Program that allows eligible aging adults to receive Medicaid-covered services like those provided by nursing homes but can stay in their own home or another residential setting; and the Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) that provides Medicaid and Medicare funding for frail, elderly people who meet the criteria for long-term care. 
  • Making the Bureau of Medicaid Long-Term Care Services and Support responsible for programs associated with the Older Michiganians Act overseen by the administrator of the new administration. 
  • Transferring the Michigan Commission on Services to the Aging and Adult Community Placement program from the former Aging and Adult Services Agency to MDHHS itself. 

"Better aligning aging and Medicaid services is a great move forward for Michigan's seniors, those living with disabilities, and their families," said Marianne Udow-Phillips, a senior advisor for the University of Michigan's Center for Health Research and Transformation (CHRT). "This new structure will help achieve MDHHS's long-standing goal of providing a continuum of care and integration of services. Bringing the resources, vision and leadership of these two organizations together will greatly enhance the work we are doing with MDHHS on their vision and strategy for long-term care." 

Coordination under the new administration allows Michigan to more easily: 

  • Develop a comprehensive strategy to improve the health and well-being of Michigan's aging population, aligning with MDHHS goals to make Michigan an age friendly state. 
  • Work to advance strategic goals and objectives quickly and efficiently. 
  • Leverage federal, state and private dollars to design interventions and supports that maximize impact. 
  • Streamline program requirements and develop complementary policies that ease burdens on providers, community organizations and other stakeholders. 

"We are pleased that Governor Whitmer and MDHHS are further elevating the needs of older adults in Michigan and providing them with more robust services," said Paula D. Cunningham, state director of AARP Michigan. "These improvements are especially important as Michigan's aging population continues to grow and as many older adults want to continue to live in their homes and communities as they age." 

For more information, visit the website for the Health and Aging Services Administration. 

To view the full executive order, click the link below: