December 3, 2022

Partly cloudy this evening with more clouds for overnight. Low 34F. Winds light and variable..
Partly cloudy this evening with more clouds for overnight. Low 34F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: November 23, 2022 @ 3:25 pm

West Virginia State Capitol is pictured. The unofficial results of Tuesday’s election show a 30-4 margin of Republicans to Democrats in the state Senate and an 88-12 margin of GOP delegates to Democrats. But voters rejected three proposed constitutional amendments that would have given the Legislature more power over tax, judicial and education policies. Voters also shot down an amendment that would have allowed churches to incorporate.

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West Virginia State Capitol is pictured. The unofficial results of Tuesday’s election show a 30-4 margin of Republicans to Democrats in the state Senate and an 88-12 margin of GOP delegates to Democrats. But voters rejected three proposed constitutional amendments that would have given the Legislature more power over tax, judicial and education policies. Voters also shot down an amendment that would have allowed churches to incorporate.
CHARLESTON — Several months after the governor called for a $1 million outside review of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, state lawmakers are displeased with the resulting report, which ruled it would not be efficient to split the department into two separate agencies.
The report was conducted by the McChrystal Group, a consulting company based in Virginia. It found that while workers within the DHHR are “compassionate and committed” to the work they do, inefficiencies in the agency — including siloed communications and a reactive instead of proactive approach to issues — are stunting any significant efforts to improve the multitude of health concerns facing the state.
Consultants in the report proposed restructuring the DHHR around an executive leadership team that would help unify the agency’s goals and combine resources to confront issues that affect different parts of the agency simultaneously.
The new model would put six leaders serving as state health officer, director of threat preparedness, chief operating officer, deputy secretary for child welfare, deputy secretary for access and eligibility and deputy secretary for substance use disorder directly under the DHHR Cabinet secretary.
This change, the consultants wrote, would limit top-down communication and would, hopefully, improve efforts to strategize between different departments in the agency, which is the largest in the state.
Consultants noted that splitting the agency into two — which lawmakers voted overwhelmingly and across party lines to do during this year’s regular legislative session, but had the bill vetoed by Gov. Jim Justice — was not the answer to improving the DHHR, as a split would “divert time, funding and leadership’s focus away from serving West Virginians.”
The agency, however, cannot keep operating under the current quo. Instead, the consultants wrote that the “DHHR requires bold organizational change.”
The findings of the McChrystal Group, however, were not bold or impressive by lawmakers’ standards.
During legislative interim meetings on Sunday, legislative leaders expressed frustration of the report. Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, called it a “million-dollar nothingburger” and a “waste of our taxpayers dollars.”
House Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, lamented that the guidance given in the report for changes were too broad and lacked specifics. They also did not address challenges specific to West Virginia — like a lack of internet and other resources — that would make implementation of any strategy more challenging.
Overall, Summers said, there was nothing “bold” in the report as promised by its authors. While weaknesses of the agency were documented within it, those findings were not new to lawmakers and solutions to them were not included.
“It just seems like (the consultants) stated that we needed ‘bold change,’ and I’m just trying to figure out what those bold changes are,” Summers told DHHR Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch on Sunday. “I think they would have popped out at you right away.”
Summers also questioned the decision to spend $1 million on the report for suggestions she said she’s heard before.
“All this has been done before, several times,” Summers told consultants who presented to lawmakers in the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability on Sunday. “I know that structure’s been used several times and it’s never worked. Why do you think now it will work?”
During a news conference Monday meant to focus on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Justice defended the report and dismissed the concerns of legislative leaders — his fellow Republicans — as spurring from their disappointments from the election last week, where four constitutional amendments failed.
“We now have a plan … (a)nd what we need to do is implement that and implement it right this second, as fast as we possibly, possibly can. Nothing ever moves as fast as we want it to move in government,” Justice said, broadly in response to a question from MetroNews’ Brad McElhinny. “But literally, you’ve got the plan and you’ve got the guy right here that believes with all in me — and I don’t want any food fights and all this junk — at the end of the day, all I want is more and more goodness.”
Neither Justice nor Crouch has publicly shared specifics on how he would implement the plan since the report was released Thursday.
Caity Coyne covers health for HD Media. She can be reached at 304-348-7939 or caity.coyne@hdmediallc.com. Follow @CaityCoyne on Twitter.
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