Emily Rice, Randy Yohe Published

New DHHR Secretaries Announced

Three people are seated behind a table with microphones, dressed in suits.
(from left) Dr. Jeff Coben, Dr. Sherri Young and Dr. Cynthia Persily speak during a Justice administrative briefing.
WV Governor's Office

Gov. Jim Justice announced three new cabinet secretaries to take over three newly created departments out of what is currently the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR).  

These are the first three permanent appointments to the evolving agency.

Legislation passed earlier this year directing the DHHR to separate after years of turmoil within the agency. House Bill 2006 terminates the DHHR beginning Jan. 1, 2024 and creates three departments: the Department of Human Services, the Department of Health and the Department of Health Facilities. The bill was signed into law on March 4. It became a law on May 23.

Dr. Sherri Young comes from the Charleston Area Medical Center as an associate chief medical officer and clinical leader for the West Virginia Health Network.

Young served as the health officer and executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department since July 2019 and led the efforts for COVID-19 testing and vaccination in Kanawha County during the pandemic. She will serve as the secretary of the Department of Health.

“There’s a lot of things that we are great at and that public health response during COVID was one of the many things that the state more than excelled in,” Young said. “But I want to take the opportunity that to look at what we have and what we need, and try to help bolster what we have so that we can address diabetes and address other health issues such as heart disease and making sure that people have the health care that they need.”

Cynthia Persily, Ph.D. comes in as vice chancellor for Health Sciences at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. She will serve as the secretary of the Department of Human Services.

“This new vital agency will serve the most vulnerable people in our state, including children and families and those in need of income, and medical and health care assistance, those needing food and nutrition services and those who are experiencing behavioral health challenges,” Persily said. “My mission in this role will be to effectively lead this transition for this division, while also respecting the dignity and rights of our employees, but also those who we serve, and also preserving our West Virginia values with integrity during that period of time.”

Michael Caruso, MBA, FACHE, is a principal at Spectrum Health Partners LLC in Wheeling, a healthcare management firm. He will serve as the secretary of the Department of Health Facilities.

The DHHR reported a $7,674,467,799 budget for fiscal year 2024 during January’s interim legislative session. Tara Buckner, chief financial officer of the DHHR testified at that hearing that 75 percent of the DHHR’s budget is made up of federal funding.

These federal funds provide for programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).