State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Plan to change DPW's name nears committee vote

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 15, 2013 2:36 PM
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A state House panel expects to vote on a plan to change the name of the state Department of Public Welfare.

Last session, the bill aiming to swap in the name, ‘Department of Human Services,’ never made it past the House Committee on Human Services.

But this time around, more than half of the members on the committee support the measure to give the DPW a makeover. Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery) is sponsoring identical legislation in the state Senate. He says DPW’s current name comes with a negative connotation it doesn’t deserve.

“You know, if you see Department of Transportation, you understand what they do, but we could also call it the Department of Potholes – and then every pothole you see, you blame Transportation,” said Mensch.

“Everyone assumes, when you say the Department of Public Welfare, that [it’s] all they do,” Mensch continued. “And in honesty, they do a lot more than just welfare.”

DPW administers Medicaid and oversees a wide range of programs including those that serve senior citizens, people with disabilities, and children. At a recent budget hearing, the agency’s acting secretary, Bev Mackereth, said her only concern with the name-change is the potential expense.

“If it didn’t cost anything, it would be great and we certainly agree with that, but to take any dollars away from the consumers is where we’re having a problem,” she said.

But the way Mensch sees it, there are ways to keep costs down.

“You order a new business card when you need new business cards. You order new stationary when you need new stationary. You can then have the new title,” he said. “I don’t think having the title changed on the buildings or on letterhead and business cards is nearly as important as just beginning to modify the perception within the political dialogue that this is about human services.”

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