Lawmakers slam DHHR’s $1 million organizational review | News, Sports, Jobs
CHARLESTON — Lawmakers erupted on Sunday against the head of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the authors of a million-dollar report released last week recommending organizational changes against a legislative drive to split the department in two.
The West Virginia Legislature convened Sunday at Cacapon Resort State Park in Berkeley Springs for three days of interim meetings.
The Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability and the Joint Committee on Government and Finance – made up of the most senior leaders of the Legislative Assembly – were briefed on Sunday afternoon on a published report Thursday by Governor Jim Justice and conducted by the McChrystal Group on an organizational assessment and strategic plan for DHHR.
Virginia-based McChrystal Group was awarded a $1.08 million contract in June to conduct the DHHR assessment and develop an action plan for the agency which has been awarded more than $7.5 billion of state and federal funding this fiscal year and employs more than 4,900 state workers. .
“Ultimately, our analysis shows strong agreement with the questions posed (by the Legislative Assembly)…but our recommendation is to maintain a single DHHR with a sub-structure, the aim being – at the least cost and with the fastest efficiency – to achieve good results for the citizens of West Virginia,” said Christopher Fussell, Chairman of the McChrystal Group.
The McChrystal Group focused on the strategic focus areas, structure and operational processes of DHHR. The report recommends that agency leaders develop detailed action plans for department-wide goals; create a leadership team; investing in leadership development starting at the executive level down to the office; improve communication and collaboration; prioritize business process improvements.
“The state has a truly incredible opportunity to drive change,” McChrystal Group partner Meghan Bourne. “Everyone agrees that we want better service delivery for West Virginians and better health and social service outcomes for West Virginians.”
But the report recommends not splitting the DHHR in two. House Bill 4020, passed in the 2022 legislative session, would have separated DHHR into the Department of Health and the Department of Human Resources. But Gov. Justice vetoed the bill in March, calling instead for an independent top-down review by DHHR.
According to Bourne, 34 out of 50 states have multiple state agencies dealing with health and social issues separately, while the remaining states have a combined state agency for these types of services. But the report doesn’t include any analysis of what kind of system is best or which systems states with better health outcomes are using to deliver services.
One of the recommendations of the McChrystal report includes adding additional assistant secretaries for child welfare, access and eligibility, and substance use disorders, with existing DHHR offices responding to these new assistant secretaries with intermediary integration teams to help with communication within DHHR, to the public, and to legislators.
But House Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, said there had been a similar reshuffling of positions within DHHR in the past. She asked DHHR secretary Bill Crouch about what he learned from the report.
“We’ve had these teams before, they were just called differently,” Summers said. “We’re just disappointed with the meat of the report and I’m trying to figure out how I’ve benefited from it…I don’t gain anything from it and I’m just trying to figure out how to move forward and I’m asking you what have you- taught you who costs $1 million? What did you learn that you didn’t already know?”
“We knew that the communication below the stewards was not great and we have to work on it”, said Crouch. “I’ll go through this and figure out how to implement this.”
“It just seems like (McChrystal Group) said we need some bold changes and I’m just trying to figure out what those bold changes are. I would have thought they would jump at you right away.
The McChrystal Group report is the result of a 17-week analysis, comprised of 65 interviews with DHHR and special interest group leaders, more than 3,400 survey responses, document reviews and department policies and a review of state health outcomes relative to other states. Over 27% of survey respondents said they do not feel supported by DHHR and do not receive the resources needed to complete their work.
The state faces several systemic health and social issues largely tied to the number of West Virginians below the poverty line. Nationally, West Virginia has the lowest life expectancy, the highest rate of drug-related deaths, and the highest percentage of minors in foster care. The state also ranks second in food insecurity and 35th in access to healthcare.
DHHR’s current fiscal year budget of $7.5 billion includes both state and federal funding. DHHR expenditures make up more than a quarter of the state’s $4.6 billion general revenue budget and are the second largest expenditure behind public education.
Bourne said several outside organizations were interviewed, such as the West Virginia Hospital Association and the West Virginia Behavioral Health Association, though a full list of groups is not available. Other constituency groups, such as foster families or disability rights groups, were not interviewed.
According to a letter written to legislative leaders on Friday, DRWV legal director Michael Folio said his group emailed Bourne and the McChrystal group team from late September to October 17, raising concerns regarding problems at DHHR. Bourne said it was too late for their input to be included, and Crouch accused Folio of harassment for the number of letters he sends to DHHR asking for information.
Senate Speaker Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, ripped Crouch over his displeasure with the DHHR report, using a word oft-used by the judiciary and calling the report a “Nothing burger.” Blair was also upset that although DHHR was briefed on the McChrystal Group’s final report on October 17, the report was not made available to the public and lawmakers until Thursday, the eve of Human Rights Day. Veterans.
“How in-depth do you think it is? This is a statement on my part, not a question. Blair said. “How are we supposed to put this in the hands of the Legislative Assembly until we get into this meeting right now so that we don’t have time to consider it? How can this happen? What happened from October 17 to November 10 that made sharing with the Legislative Assembly impossible? »
“I work for the executive. This was a requirement of the executive branch in terms of DHHR having a top-down review,” said Crouch. “We didn’t release it to anyone until we had time for the governor’s office to review it and for the governor to review it. It would have been inappropriate to give it to the public or anyone else.
“We are representing taxpayers’ money in all of this,” Blair said. “We represent the power of the wallet and we have authorized the funding for this to be done. That in itself means you should have shared it. We work together as a “team” to get things done. This information should have been shared.
“We’re done with this $1 million nothing,” Blair said at the end of the meeting.