Chris Schulz, Emily Rice Published

DHHR Restructuring Passes Legislature, Heads To Governor

Senate President Craig Blair stands under the Senate seal on the Senate dais. Next to him, the results of the vote on House Bill 2006 are displayed on a large blue screen.
Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, stands on the Senate dais as the results of the vote on House Bill 2006 are displayed next to him.
Will Price/WV Legislative Photography

The first of two bills aimed at restructuring the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources completed legislative activity Wednesday.

With a vote of 33 to 1, the Senate passed House Bill 2006. Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, was the only vote against the legislation.

The DHHR has been beset by controversies in recent years, and lawmakers have argued the department’s broad mandate, constituting a nearly $8 billion budget in 2024, is simply too unwieldy for a single department to properly manage.

In November 2022, a report commissioned by Gov. Jim Justice from the McChrystal Group was released, calling for overcoming funding obstacles, improving technology resources and answering pervasive workforce challenges.

The report, which cost $1 million, recommended several improvements including creating leadership teams, improving interdepartmental communications and seeking proactive input from the many bureaus that make up DHHR. The report concluded that the existing department could be reformed to work efficiently with an increased workforce.

House Bill 2006 would terminate the DHHR beginning Jan. 1, 2024 and instead create three departments: the Department of Human Services, the Department of Health and the Department of Health Facilities.

The bill now goes to Justice for his signature.

“When it makes its way to my desk, I will approach it in a very positive way because truly, there’s lots and lots and lots of folks with a lot of opinions,” Justice said. He held an administrative press briefing Wednesday as the Senate was voting on the bill. 

“We want to continue to try to make things better, and absolutely I’ll look very open-minded and in a real positive way, because that’s all I’m wanting to do, just make it better,” Justice said. “If we can help more of our folks in regard to DHHR, that’s what we want to do. And if we can do it better. Absolutely. I’m all in.”

A similar bill, Senate Bill 126, is currently in the House Health and Human Resources Committee.