The NCSL Blog


By Samantha Hughes

Human services chairs from across the nation shared their states’ greatest innovations and challenges during NCSL’s inaugural human services chairs meeting earlier this month in New Orleans.

Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Utah), Rep. Toni Walker (D-Conn.) and group director Rochelle Finzel.The meeting discussed innovations in human services policy and financing, strategies to address poverty and improve outcomes for children and families, and provided an opportunity for legislators to learn from their peers who are working on similar issues.

Among the more common challenges cited by the 22 chairs from 17 states were:  

  • Human service budgets and resources.
  • Mental health services.
  • Political tenor of legislative deliberations about human services and health care related issues.

(Pictured from left: Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Utah), Rep. Toni Walker (D-Conn.) and group director Rochelle Finzel).

The most common innovations related to policy or legislation for state-specific issues like mental health and substance abuse, justice system reform, and many who had created task forces or commissions to tackle big issues that cross many departments.

Committee chairs learned how to incorporate employment and training into their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and leverage opportunities to connect to other state workforce development opportunities. Other topics included human services budgets and financing and the implications of changing demographics.

The chairs also joined the neighboring education committee chairs to hear about innovative multigenerational strategies to improve student achievement and adult workforce and economic success. Legislators from Connecticut and Utah discussed what their states were doing to address intergenerational poverty. Attendees also heard from a panel of individuals who operate programs to serve both parents and their children.

As the two-day meeting came to an end, legislators discussed their takeaway points and created an action plan for their states. This inaugural meeting of human services committee chairs laid the foundation for meetings to come.

For more information, be sure to visit  the Human Services Chairs Meeting page to view the full agenda and PowerPoint Presentations.

Samantha Hughes is an intern in NCSL’s Children and Families program.

Email Samantha.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.