Randy Yohe Published

Despite Criticism, DHHR Moving To Immediately Implement Reorganization Study Recommendations


Child Welfare, substance use disorders and workforce.

Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said those are his agency’s priorities, and they are continuing challenges that aren’t being met. He made that statement during a legislative interim meeting at Cacapon Springs on Sunday.

During Gov. Jim Justice’s Monday media coronavirus briefing he said the recommendations in a recently released reorganization study, ordered by Justice, will be implemented immediately – and will help to improve priority outcomes.

In March 2022, Justice vetoed HB 4020, a bill that would have split the massive DHHR into two different agencies. In response, he hired a national consulting group to identify top-to-bottom issues, bottlenecks and inefficiencies.

Leaders from the firm Justice hired, the McChrystal Group out of Alexandria, Virginia broke down the $1 million top-to-bottom reorganization study for both the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability and the Joint Committee on Government and Finance.

The study highlights a plan to improve leadership and communication to better address Crouch’s priorities. It does not split the agency in two. McChrystal consultant Meghan Bourne told the committees the strategic plan installs another level of leadership — new deputy commissioners and communication driven integration teams — to allow the working leaders to implement plans for positive outcomes.

“You then have the information, the decision making, the power, the authority that you need to drive change,” Bourne said. “That sounds simple, it is not obviously simple. There’s definitely some disagreement on the how. And that’s where our assessment comes in.”

Crouch said the recommendations in the reorganization study ordered by Justice will be implemented immediately – and will help to improve priority outcomes.

“It’s easy to draw organizational charts. It’s very easy to move block boxes around and to put people in boxes,” Crouch said. “They looked at the structure of DHHR but they also looked at the problems in West Virginia, and looked at what West Virginians need with regard to DHHR services. “For the first time, we’ll have individuals who are not worried about the people underneath in terms of what box they’re in or what they do, but how do we solve this problem in West Virginia and help the people of West Virginia.”

In the interim committee meetings, lawmakers questioned a study that many said lacked substance and had ideas that had been implemented before, to no avail.

House Majority leader, Del. Amy Summers, R-Taylor was a study opposition leader.

“All this has been done before, in fact, several times,” Summers said. “So I’m trying to see, did you evaluate when that system was in place? Was it effective? Or did you not consider that even though this has been done before that you still think it’s the best way to go?”

Senate Finance Committee Chair Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, supported the vetoed HB 4020 over the McChrystal study.

“The reason we passed (HB 4020) was to put DHHR out to where it would be smaller, so it was more manageable,” Tarr said. “This doesn’t make it smaller, it grows it.”

Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, ended the DHHR interim session discussion with, “We’re finished with that million dollar ‘nothingburger’ – let’s move on to other business.”

During the coronavirus briefing, Justice identified Senate leaders as “irrational children” upset with the midterm amendment outcomes. He said West Virginia governors have been trying to fix DHHR crisis problems for decades and he defended the McCrystal study as a real plan ready to implement.

“This report calls for bold changes that are needed,” Justice said. “Before we start just shooting from the hip to say we don’t like this, we don’t like that. we ought to at least really analyze all the way through what’s been said and look at what to do.”

Crouch said implementing the study recommendations will benefit the agency, the legislature and most importantly, the clients that DHHR serves.

“We’re gonna, for the first time, have someone who’s responsible for child welfare. Other pieces are going to help in terms of communication,” Crouch said. “The integration pieces that were complained about are to try to improve communication with the legislature so that we have individuals in those specific areas that the legislator can lean on and reach out to and get information from. I’m very pleased with this. We’ve already started kind of figuring out how we’re going to implement this.”