Poll: Should the Department of Public Welfare change its name?

Some state lawmakers are pushing to change the name of the state’s Department of Public Welfare to the Department of Human Services.

And five former governors publicly support the change. Former Pennsylvania Governors Ed Rendell, Mark Schweiker, Tom Ridge, Dick Thornburgh and George Leader recently wrote:

“Words matter.  Names matter. Stigma lasts.

“These should be reasons enough for Pennsylvania to change the name of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. If providing “welfare” to “welfare” recipients is what the Department actually did, then the name might make sense. But the fact is that 95% of what the Department of Public Welfare does and who they serve are human(s) in need of service(s).”

The letter also says that Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that still uses the Department of Public Welfare name.

The full news release from the Campaign for What Works, and the letter signed by the five former governors, after the jump:

The letter from the governors:

Words matter.  Names matter. Stigma lasts.

These should be reasons enough for Pennsylvania to change the name of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. If providing “welfare” to “welfare” recipients is what the Department actually did, then the name might make sense. But the fact is that 95% of what the Department of Public Welfare does and who they serve are human(s) in need of service(s).

We are pleased to join together as former Governors of our great commonwealth in asking the legislature to change the name of the Department of Public Welfare to the Department of Human Services. We support the legislative efforts of Representative Tom Murt and Senators Bob Mensch and Jay Costa that would make this change at no cost to taxpayers.

Pennsylvanians who are served by the Department are our mothers and grandmothers in need of long-term nursing care. They are our neighbors struggling with mental illness, children with physical disabilities, and family members with a terrible drug addiction. And sadly, they are the mothers next door, where something not right, needing the protection and help of a shelter. These are not welfare recipients.  Again, they are humans in need of services.

And while we like being the only state in some things, we should not want to be the only state in all things — like being the only state to still have a Department of Public Welfare. According to American Public Human Service Administrators, every other state has ceased calling the Department that provides services to human beings “Welfare.” Except Pennsylvania.  Here in Pennsylvania, the commonwealth partners with county governments in the delivery of human services and not one of our 67 counties has an agency or department of ”Welfare.”

We hope you will support our request and change the name of the Department of Public Welfare to the Department of Human Services.

The news release from last week:

Effort to Change Name of the Department of Public Welfare to the Department of Human Services Gains Massive Support Ahead of Introduction of Legislation

Five former Pennsylvania Governors and Six Former DPW Secretaries Call on Legislature to Change Name

Pittsburgh, PA (March 12, 2013) – Legislation by Representative Thomas Murt, and Senators Bob Mensch and Jay Costa proposing to change the name of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) to the Department of Human Services has gained massive support ahead of its introduction to the House and Senate.

Most notably, former Pennsylvania Governors Ed Rendell, Mark Schweiker, Tom Ridge, Dick Thornburgh and George Leader, and former DPW Secretaries Harriet Dichter, Estelle B. Richman, Feather Houstoun, John F. White Jr., Karen F. Snider and Walter Cohen are backing the proposed legislation to change the name.

A letter (attached) cosigned by former Governors Rendell, Schweiker, Ridge, Thornburgh and Leader was presented to the legislature today requesting that the Department name be changed to the Department of Human Services.

The letter from the former Governors states, “Words matter. Names matter. Stigma lasts. These should be reasons enough for Pennsylvania to change thename of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. If providing “welfare” to “welfare” recipients is what the Department actually did, then the name might make sense. But the fact is that 95% of what the Department of PublicWelfare does and who they serve are human(s) in need of service(s).”

Offering support on behalf of the six former DPW secretaries, Karen F. Snider, DPW Secretary, 1991-1995, added, “As former Secretaries of the Department of Public Welfare, we know firsthand that the vast majority of services that the Department provides, including helping Pennsylvania’s seniors, peoplestruggling with addiction, and neighbors with intellectual disabilities, is not welfare.”

“With 95% of the Department’s budget being spent on health and human services, the Department needs a name that aligns with its mission to ‘promote, improve and sustain the quality of family life, break the cycle of dependency, and protect and serve Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens.’ It’s time for Pennsylvania to get in sync with the rest of the country and change the name,” she said.

When asked about the name change legislation during the House Appropriations Committee Budget Hearing with the Department of Public Welfare last week, Acting Department of Public Welfare Secretary Beverly Mackereth said she supports the legislation because “words matter” and the use of the word “welfare” can be polarizing.

Representative Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery) is the lead sponsor of the legislation, which currently has 82 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and will be introduced next week. Senators Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery) and Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) are gathering cosponsors for identical legislation in the Senate. Their legislation currently has 20 cosponsors.

“Pennsylvania strives to be a leader yet we are the only state in the country who still refers totheir department that delivers human services as the Department of Public Welfare,” said Senator Mensch. “The current name is both misleading and stigmatizing. Taking care of our neighbors with physical or intellectual disabilities is not welfare, it’s a societal responsibility. As chairman of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee, I also understand that helping ourmost venerable older Pennsylvanians stay in their homes rather than spend the rest of their lives in a nursing home is not welfare, it’s cost-effective and smart,” Mensch added.

 

The Campaign for What Works has also convened a growing statewide coalition of organizations advocating for the name change including Achieva, Amachi Pittsburgh, The Arc of Pennsylvania, Consumer Health Coalition, Disability Rights Network, Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership, Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania, the PA Waiting ListCampaign, PAR – Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources, Pennsylvania Community Providers Association, Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging, The Pittsburgh Foundation, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Partnership for Aging,United Cerebral Palsy of Central Pennsylvania, United Cerebral Palsy of Pennsylvania, United Methodist Advocacy in Pennsylvania, United Way of ErieCounty, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, United Way of Pennsylvania, the United Way of the Capital Region, United Way of Allegheny County and Vision for Equality.

An online petition supporting the change can be found at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/561/687/696/change-the-dept-of-public-welfares-name-to-the-dept-of-human-services/.

About Campaign for What Works –Campaign for What Works is a joint effort initiated by United Way of Allegheny County, the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership, and The Pittsburgh Foundation to ensure the future of our vital human service programs and, above all, the wellbeing of the people they serve.

 

 

 

 

 

About Ed Mahon

County government and politics reporter at York Daily Record/Sunday News.
This entry was posted in Department of Public Welfare, Dick Thornburgh, Ed Rendell, George Leader, Mark Schweiker, Pennsylvania State Government, Tom Ridge and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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