Must a CHSA take on all three functions specified in the law (public health, social services, and mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse services), or is it possible to create a CHSA that consolidates only two of the functions?

While the law doesn’t directly answer this question, the law as a whole strongly suggests that that a CHSA must include all three human services functions: public health, social services, and mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services (MHDDSAS).

  • The law authorizes the creation of “a consolidated human services agency with the authority to carry out the functions of the local health department, the county department of social services, and the area mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse services authority.”[1] In interpreting statutes, the use of the word “and” rather than “or” is significant and suggests that all three functions must be part of the CHSA.
  • A separate provision in the law allows a county to add other county human services functions to the CHSA’s duties.[2] Because it creates this option, it appears that public health, social services, and MHDDSAS are the “core” human services programs that must be included and others are optional.
  • The law specifies who must be included on the consolidated human services board. The board must include people who are served by each of the three agencies, with a heavy emphasis on clients, families, and providers involved with the MHDDSAS services. It would be incongruous to have a board so heavily weighted towards the MHDDSAS arena to govern the activities of an agency focused on public health and social services.

Thus, the law appears clearly to contemplate that a CHSA will assume the functions of all three agencies—public health, social services, and MHDDSAS—and it provides for a board that represents the interests of all three agencies.

[1]G.S. 153A-77(b)(3) (emphasis added).

[2]G.S. 153A-77(b)(4). 

Topics - Local and State Government