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      Human Services head Lucinda Jesson calmly guides department through age of reform

      Posted on March 02, 2012 at 11:17 AM

      The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is the state’s largest agency, serving well over one million people annually. The department administers a broad range of services, including health care, economic assistance, mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment. At the helm of the department, Commissioner Lucinda Jesson has engaged in some of the State’s toughest battles over the past year, including keeping services rolling throughout the State Government Shutdown.

      This week Politics in Minnesota (subscription required) profiled the work of Commissioner Jesson. The article commends Commissioner Jesson for her perseverance and positive demeanor when dealing with last year’s budget fights.

      “She has got one of the toughest commissioner jobs that is out there,” [Minnesota Hospital Association president] Massa says. “She has been very open to working with stakeholders. She is a good communicator. If she thinks something is going to be controversial, she will give us a call or have someone on her staff give us a call.”

      Anne Henry is an attorney with the Minnesota Disability Law Center, a nonprofit watchdog group that provides civil legal services to low-income people. Though she has her differences with the commissioner, Henry also is impressed with Jesson’s willingness to make herself available to the various Human Services advisory committees on which Henry serves.

      “It is I think a very good practice for a commissioner to have,” Henry says, “but I had not experienced that before.”

      Things haven’t slowed down for Commissioner Jesson either: she has recently hired an inspector general to investigate medical payment fraud. She is also implementing Dayton’s directive to increase competitive bidding and regular audits within publically funded health programs. And these are just things at the top of her ‘to-do’ list.

      Despite the many conflicts and stresses that her job may bring, Commissioner Jesson hasn’t lost her optimistic and youthful demeanor. “We touch over a million people’s lives every year,” she says. “To be commissioner of this department just gives you some of the greatest opportunities to change lives for the better that you can find anywhere in government.”

      Thanks to the hard work of agency leaders like Commissioner Jesson, we can continue to strive for common sense reforms, improved services, and reduced costs for all Minnesotans.