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Minnesota Agencies

Information on Minnesota State Agencies, Boards, Task Forces, and Commissions

Compiled by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library

Human Services Department

Also known as:
Minnesota Department of Human Services
Active dates:1984 -

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) helps people meet their basic needs so they can live in dignity and achieve their highest potential.

DHS programs include Medical Assistance (MA), General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC), MinnesotaCare, Minnesota Family Investment Program (Minnesota's version of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program), General Assistance (GA), child protection, child support enforcement, child welfare services, and services for people who are mentally ill, chemically dependent or have physical or developmental disabilities.

DHS also provides direct service through its regional offices for the deaf and hard of hearing; through State Operated Services (SOS), which provides direct care to people with disabilities; and through the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.


The Public Welfare Department was created in 1953 when the three divisions of the Department of Social Security were split into two functionally aligned agencies. Employment and Security became a department on its own while Social Welfare and Public Institutions were combined to form the Department of Public Welfare (Laws of Minn. 1953, chap. 593). The name of the department remained the same until 1984 when it was incorporated into the state Medicaid agency and hospital system and became the Department of Human Services (Laws of Minn. 1984, chap. 654).

DHS' website offers further details about the agency's history: "Since the late 1800s, DHS has served Minnesotans in need. From its beginning as the state Board of Correction and Charities in 1883, which evolved into the state Board of Control in 1901, the Minnesota Department of Social Security in 1939, the Department of Public Welfare in 1953, and finally to the Department of Human Services in 1983, it is here to help people make transitions in their lives and live as independently as possible." 

Agency heads:

Commissioner term, 4 years or pleasure of governor:
Leonard Levine, 1983-1986
Sandra Gardebring, 1986-1989
Ann Wynia, 1989-1990
Natalie Haas Steffen, 1991-1993
Maria Gomez, 1993-June 1996
John Petraborg (Acting Commissioner), 1996
David Doth, October 1996-January 1999
Michael O'Keefe, January 21, 1999-February 2002
Linda Anderson (Acting Commissioner), July 2002-2003
Kevin Goodno, January 2003-July 25, 2006
Cal Ludemann, 2006-January 3, 2011
Lucinda Jesson, January 2011-December 2015
Emily Johnson Piper, December 14, 2015-December 2018
Tony Lourey, January 2019-July 15, 2019
Pam Wheelock (acting commissioner), July 16, 2019-September 2, 2019
Jodi Harpstead, September 3, 2019-

Note: The Legislative Reference Library may have additional reports on or by this group available through our catalog.
Breaking up the Department of Human Services: From skeptic to convert. Minnesota Reformer, 5/15/2024.
The Department of Human Services is breaking up. What does that mean for Minnesotans?. Star Tribune, 3/15/2024.
DHS - DCT Agency Transition. [Department of Human Services Presentation to the Senate Human Services Committee], 2/16/2024.
Minnesota Department of Human Services to be broken up after years of scrutiny. Star Tribune, 7/2/2023.
Gov. Tim Walz names new education, health and public safety commissioners. Star Tribune, 12/22/2022.
Minnesota DHS to cut spending, impose layoffs to close looming budget shortfall. Star Tribune, 8/28/2020.
90-day report: Minnesota Department of Human Services. Commissioner Jodi Harpstead, 12/2/2019.
News clippings and documents: Commissioner of Human Services. Agencies Notebook Collection, 1986-2019.
News clippings and documents: Human Services Department. Agencies Notebook Collection, 1985-2020.
Record last updated: 04/22/2024

All information on this group from the Library’s collection of agency notebooks has been digitized. These materials are incorporated into the “documents/articles” section of the record. Please contact a librarian with any questions. The Minnesota Agencies database is a work in progress.

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