State’s new human services chief vows to rebuild trust

Published 7:11 am Thursday, September 5, 2019

ST. PAUL  — Minnesota’s new human services commissioner on Wednesday said she is making trustworthiness the focus of her first 90 days on the job leading the state’s largest and most criticized agency.

Speaking at a Minnesota Senate hearing, Jodi Harpstead held up a granite plaque engraved with the word “Trustworthy” that had sat on her desk when she was chief executive of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.

She said the plaque didn’t face outward to claim to the world that she was trustworthy, but faced inward as a reminder of the importance of integrity.

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“There’s nothing more important for the Minnesota Department of Human Services than to be trustworthy for the people of Minnesota,” Harpstead said on just her second day as commissioner.

The department has been in turmoil over upper management departures and about $73 million in overpayments to tribal and other chemical dependency treatment providers that somehow must be repaid to the federal government.