Promoting and protecting the health and safety of all Idahoans
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August 16, 2018

Our Organization

The Department of Health and Welfare serves under the leadership of Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter. Our Director, Russell Barron, oversees all department operations and is advised by a seven-member State Board of Health and Welfare appointed by the Governor.
 
Our agency is comprised of eight divisions, as well as the Office of Healthcare Policy Initiatives and Indirect Support Services:
  • Medicaid
  • Public Health
  • Behavioral Health
  • Family and Community Services
  • Welfare
  • Operational Services
  • Information and Technology
  • Licensing and Certification 

(Please see the organization chart.)

Each Division provides services, or partners with other agencies and groups, to help people in our communities. As an example, the Division of Family and Community Services will provide direct services for child protection and may partner with community providers or agencies to help people with developmental disabilities. 

Each of our Divisions is made up of bureaus, which include individual programs. Our Division of Public Health, for instance, has the Bureau of Clinical and Preventive Services. This includes such diverse programs as the HIV, STD and Hepatitis Section, the Maternal and Child Health Section, and the Women, Infants, and Children Section.

Our regional directors help carry out the mission of the Department. They work with community leaders and groups to develop partnerships that help more people than the Department could by itself. They also are our director's community representatives and are geographically located to reach each area of the state.

A History of Public Health in Idaho

Public health and welfare programs in Idaho have developed in tandem with national concerns and federal policies. Historical watersheds, such as the Great Depression and World War II, and landmark legislation, such as the Social Security Act of 1935, have had major impacts on state programs. Every session of Congress and the Idaho Legislature also have molded state policies and programs. Idaho developed a state Medicaid Program in 1965 to provide health care for the elderly, disabled, and pregnant women and children from low-income families. State and federal mandates influence the Department more than any other factor. 

We Began in 1885

Idaho
began building what is today the Department of Health and Welfare even before statehood in 1890. The first elements were the Idaho Insane Asylum (1885) at Blackfoot, the Idaho Soldier's Home (1893) at Boise, the North Idaho Insane Asylum (1905) at Orofino and the Idaho State Sanitarium (1911) at Nampa. Those institutions developed into State Hospital South; the Idaho State Veterans Home with offices in Boise, Pocatello and Lewiston; State Hospital North; and Southwest Idaho Treatment Center. 

Board of Health Follows in 1907

In 1907, the Legislature created the State Board of Health. From the beginning, the Board was concerned with public health in the broadest sense. For example, its first report to Governor Frank R. Gooding called his attention to inadequate stream protection, incomplete vital statistics and sanitation at state institutions.

The Board was replaced in 1919 by the Department of Public Welfare, which included public health and social programs until 1941. At that point, the state created departments of Public Health, Public Assistance and Charitable Institutions. These programs continued to evolve under various names and organizations. Environmental programs began as a branch of public health and have had increasing stature since the 1940s. Since 1974, all of these activities were consolidated within the Department of Health and Welfare. The Board of Health and Welfare, in its current form, was created at the same time.  

Serving Idaho Today

Today, the Department operates offices throughout Idaho where residents have access to a variety of social service programs.