A legislative committee’s considering rolling eight of Iowa’s service agencies into just two. The Department of Elder Affairs would be merged with several civil-rights commissions for minorities and women, and the Department for the Blind would be merged with Deaf Services and persons with disabilities. Mary Lundby of Marion chairs the Government Oversight Committee and says it could eliminate duplication. Lundby says cost-savings are always in mind, but the main goal’s advocacy for Iowans to help them with discrimination, housing, jobs, interpretation, access or other problems. Allen Harris, head of the Iowa Department for the Blind, says other states that have huge “umbrella agencies” let blind clients slip through the cracks. The blind are a tiny fraction of the disabled, he says, and the resources aren’t fairly shared with them. Harris says right now Iowa’s Agency for the Blind is considered a national model with its training in literacy, home economics and travel, and he can’t imagine why the state would change it. Another concern for Dianne Utsinger of the Iowa Braille and Sight Savings School is a proposal to remove it and the school for the deaf from the supervision of the Board of Regents. She says these are Iowa’s most vulnerable children and her staff would welcome a better way to meet all their needs, as long as their best interests are kept in mind. The Government Oversight Committee will hear more testimony today (Wednesday) on merging the agencies.
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