Emily Rice Published

DHHR Officially Split Into Three Departments

A roomful of people watch a woman present a structure plan for her department.
Dr. Cynthia Persily, secretary of the Department of Human Services addresses a legislative committee.
Will Price/WV Legislative Photography

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has been split into three separate departments following the passage of a bill to split the agency last year. 

The DHHR has long been troubled but has come under fire in recent years for staffing shortages and other problems, compromising the care provided to children in the foster care system or those living in state hospitals.

Following an investigation and the filing of a class action lawsuit, in 2023, the Legislature decided to split up the agency. House Bill 2006 was signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice on March 6, 2023.

These departments are the Department of Human Services, run by Secretary Cynthia Persily, the Department of Health, run by Secretary Dr. Sherri Young, and the Department of Health Facilities, run by Secretary Michael Caruso.

Gov. Jim Justice congratulated the new secretaries and expressed hope for positive change in the agencies.

“Now, it is three differences in three different secretaries, three different departments,” Justice said. “With all that being said, we want to, we want to welcome the change, we want to hope, like crazy that this makes things better.”

Justice also noted how much money flows through the agency, more than twice the amount of the entire state’s annual budget. 

“There’s so much money that’s flowing in and out of DHHR,” Justice said. “It’s unbelievable. And therefore, maybe this will just make us better.”

For fiscal year 2024, the DHHR presented a budget of more than $7.5 billion, with 75 percent of that being federal funding.

The legislature attempted to split the agency up in 2022, but that bill was vetoed by Justice.

The bill takes effect in May, but the new departments were required to be in place by Jan. 1, 2024.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.