The History of MDHS
The Mississippi Department of Human Services has its origins in legislation passed in 1935 during the closing days of Governor Mike Conner’s administration and the early days of the administration of Governor Hugh White in 1936. Governor Conner called a special session of the Mississippi Legislature in October 1935 to consider ways to financially assist certain groups of needy Mississippi residents. The Legislature responded by passing the “Emergency Relief Act,” which created a state department of emergency relief consisting of a five-member State Welfare Board, a State Commissioner and, not more than ten additional workers. The law also provided for the creation of county welfare or relief boards and appropriated $700,000 to be given to the needy, aged, blind, crippled or otherwise disabled, and dependent children under certain conditions [Laws, 1935, Ch. 18].
The State Department of Public Welfare, the predecessor of the Department of Human Services, was created by the Legislature in April 1936 as part of the passage of the “Mississippi Old Age Security Act.” The Emergency Relief Administration, which had only functioned for five months, was abolished.
The law provided for the creation of a State Board of Public Welfare, a Commissioner of Public Welfare and county boards of public welfare. It accepted the provisions of the federal Social Security Act as applicable to needy persons more than 65 years of age and appropriated $1,000,000 to fund the program, an amount to be matched by the federal government [Laws, 1936, Ch. 175].
The Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) was renamed and established by the legislature in 1989 as part of the state government’s reorganization [General Laws of the State of Mississippi, 1989, Ch. 544]. The new department assumed the responsibilities of the State Department of Public Welfare and the State Board of Public Welfare. The agency also absorbed the Office of Energy and Community Services, the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee and the Mississippi Council on Aging which was formerly within the Division of Federal/State Programs, Office of the Governor [Mississippi Code Annotated, 1972, §43-1- 6].