Lawmakers receive W.Va. DHHR update

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) is in a state of transition.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 7:11 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Every West Virginian -- young and old -- relies upon the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources, a massive agency that finds itself in a state of transition.

Lawmakers voted earlier this year to split that agency in three New Year’s Day -- a Department of Health Facilities, Department of Human Services and a Department of Health.

The goal for supporters -- three smaller agencies, more responsive to your needs, all without state government taking more of your money.

Lawmakers making that point at a interim committee meeting this month, where they received an update on the transition from each of the three incoming secretaries.

One point of concern, a new director of strategy the Department of Health Facilities. Incoming Secretary Michael Caruso for the West Virginia Department of Health Facilities, told lawmakers the position is needed to help develop a plan to deal with aging state hospitals. “We can’t stay the same,” he said. “We are on a train wreck right now in regards to where we are with our facilities.”

Del. Amy Summers, R-Taylor, chairs the House Health & Human Resources Committee. She was among the first to express concern.

“I see some growth in this,” she said. “I’m really worried about what we pay our frontline workers, and I’m seeing a lot of growth at the top.”

Those leading the transition say many administrative positions will be shared among the three departments.

“We have spent hours, and hours, and hours, and hours meeting and looking at these structures,” said Dr. Cynthia Persily, incoming secretary for the Department of Human Services “Looking at what we currently have, what we need for the future and how we can do that in an efficient way.”

Summers used travel pay for Child Protective Service workers to underscore the need to make things run smoother.

“How many yeses would it take for a CPS worker to deal with not receiving their travel pay?” she asked Persily to research. “Can you map that out for me?”

Summers requested information about how many people it would take before and after transition.

Persily said the new answer is one, telling Summers employees can contact her directly and sharing an instance of that occurring.

The presentation on behalf of the administration also reinforced their commitment to an independent, inspector general to examine and root out issues in the three departments.