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Departmental History

In the early 1970s there were more than 300 state agencies or departments, including the Department of Public Welfare, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Mental Health, regulatory agencies, and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. A plan was developed by a Legislative Commission to group "like" agencies and departments under one umbrella. The General Assembly enacted the "Executive Organization Act of 1971," which created the Department of Human Resources.

The newly created department brought together a number of free-standing departments, including mental health and social services. These departments became divisions in the new Department of Human Resources.

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The Legislature enacted the "Executive Organization Act of 1973," which repealed the 1971 Act. It kept much of the previous language but required the transfer of divisions or agencies within other departments to what would be considered the most appropriate department. Under this legislation, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation was transferred from the Department of Public Instruction to DHR.

In the early 1970s many rural North Carolinians had no access to medical treatment. Many rural counties didn't even have a doctor. The rural poor were either unable to see a physician or had to drive long distances to do so. The Office of Rural Health was established by Executive Order in 1974 to address this issue.

In 1977, the legislature created the Division of Aging and added it to DHR so that more emphasis could be given to the needs of the growing elderly population. In 2004, this division became the Division of Aging and Adult Services.

In 1978, the Division of Medical Assistance was created within the Department to administer the Medicaid program. Prior to DMA's creation, Medicaid had been administered by the Division of Social Services, with county departments of social services determining eligibility. It was determined that with its large budget and rules and regulations it needed to be a stand alone division and was transferred from DSS. Eligibility continues to be determined by the county departments of social services.

In 1989, the legislature created the Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and a Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. At that time the division was the central administrative office for the three schools for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and provided services to preschoolers and the adult population. In 1999 the schools were transferred to the Division of Education and Early Intervention.

Also in 1989, the Division of Public Health was transferred from the Department of Human Resources to the Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources (DEHNR). Legislation was enacted in 1997 to transfer most of the Division of Public Health back to the Department of Human Resources, and to change the name of the Department to the Department of Health and Human Services.

From the beginning of subsidized child day care in the early 1970s, that program was located in the Division of Social Services. It was later transferred to the Division of Facility Services, since most of the child care requirements at that time included certification, monitoring for compliance of regulatory items, and payments. The Division of Facility Services changed its name to the Division of Health Service Regulation in 2007

With the advent of Smart Start in 1993, the Governor and Secretary created a Division of Child Development. Child care services were transferred to that division with the goal of creating a division that would emphasize the needs of children and provide more affordable, high- quality child care.

In 1994, an Internal Audit Section was formed, which was formalized by the the General Assembly in 1997 into the Office of the Internal Auditor (G.S. 143B-216.50-.51). The Office of the Internal Auditor performs various types of audits and reviews both within the Department and at the subrecipient level for grantees, based on need assessments coordinated with the DHHS Office of the Secretary.

In July 1999, the Secretary created the Early Intervention and Education Division. The three Schools for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Governor Morehead School for the Blind were transferred to this Division. In July 2001 the name was changed to the Office of Education Services.

Listed below are all the Secretaries who have served the Department from the beginning to the present:

  • In 1971 Governor Bob Scott appointed Dr. Lenox Baker;
  • In January 1973 Governor Jim Holshouser appointed David Flaherty;
  • In January 1976 Governor Jim Hunt appointed Dr. Sarah Morrow;
  • In January 1985 Governor Jim Martin appointed Phillip Kirk;
  • In May 1986 Governor Jim Martin appointed David Flaherty;
  • In January 1993 Governor James B Hunt appointed Robin Britt;
  • In January 1997 Governor James B. Hunt appointed Dr. David Bruton;
  • In January 2001 Governor Michael Easley appointed Carmen Hooker Odom;
  • In September 2007 Governor Michael Easley appointed Dempsey Benton;
  • In January 2009 Governor Beverly Eaves Perdue appointed Lanier M. Cansler.
  • In February 2012 Governor Beverly Eaves Perdue appointed Albert A. Delia.
  • In January 2013 Governor Pat McCrory appointed Dr. Aldona Z. Wos.

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