West Virginia

WSAZ Investigates | Overpriced and underwhelming follow-up

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – For a week we have been telling you about a top-to-bottom review by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

Several announcements were made this week about changes in the agency following this review. Legislators say that’s not enough, and our efforts to bring clarity have been blocked.

Those announcements came in the form of three news releases detailing changes made at the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) following a comprehensive review of the agency.

That review was ordered by Gov. Jim Justice after he vetoed a bill earlier this year that would have split the department into two separate agencies.

The more than $1 million taxpayer-funded comprehensive review was conducted by the McChrystal Group – a Virginia-based consulting firm.

A report on the review was released earlier this month, and lawmakers were less than impressed.

Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said at the November interims: “Top down to me means all inclusive. that is not all comprehensive.”

Del. Amy Summers, R-Taylor, said: “Mr. What did you learn from this report that you didn’t know before we, the people, spent a million dollars?”

Del. Heather Tully, R-Nicholas, said: “I don’t know if I think it took an advisory group to tell him to communicate with some of the other heads of the office.”

Changes announced by DHHR in press releases this week included the appointment of two new assistant secretaries, bringing the total to three, as recommended by the McChrystal Group.

On Monday, Cammie Chapman was announced as the new assistant secretary for children and adult ministries.

On Tuesday, Christina Mullins was named assistant secretary for mental health and addictions.

On Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch announced structural changes within the department and a hiring freeze within the DHHR.

Because lawmakers were so open after reading the report, WSAZ’s Sarah Sager reached out to Senate President Craig Blair for his thoughts on the changes made so far.

“Mixing the deckchairs with the same people and expecting different results. I don’t expect a big result on that,” Blair said.

So what does Blair mean by pushing people around?

The newly appointed Deputy Secretary Chapman has been Associate General Counsel at DHHR since 2018.

The other newly appointed deputy secretary, Mullins, is a long-time employee of DHHR, most recently as a commissioner for the Department’s Office of Behavioral Health.

Then there’s Russ Crane, an existing Assistant Secretary who hasn’t been given a particular focus as of yet.

WSAZ’s Sarah Sager reached out to DHHR for clarification on any changes to Crane’s role. She was told she would have to wait until today’s governor’s COVID-19 media briefing for answers.

Sayer: “Secretary Crouch, how do you respond to some criticism of the restructuring of DHHR – that we’re just shifting people within the department and expecting different results? That’s my first question. Second question: Are any more announcements expected this week regarding changes to the McChrystal Group report? Third question: Secretary Crouch, are you open to personal discussions? If so, I would like to request one. I’ve been working to get a face-to-face interview with you since the beginning of the year – I even asked the governor if he would help me get a face-to-face interview with you. So, I’ll just put that on the record, I’d love to get one. Many Thanks.”

During Wednesday’s briefing, Secretary of State Crouch answered just one of Sager’s questions.

“I think there will be criticism regardless of what I do at this point. DHHR is under scrutiny here. We do many good things every day for large numbers of people in this state, tens of thousands of people in this state. So I’d like to focus on the good stuff, but I know a lot of people want to focus on other areas that they see as failures,” Crouch said.

gov. However, Jim Justice followed suit.

“I will absolutely urge Bill Crouch to speak to you and absolutely have you interview him. I think it’s great that he’s doing it, but you just have to give him a little time and a little leeway here. I’m not an expert in all the different areas that DHHR deals with, but I can assure you, Sarah, I’m an expert in this area by heart: I’m an impatient guy and I want results. And absolutely with everything in me, if we don’t have results, we’re going to have other players,” Justice said.

Lawmakers say the lack of communication extends to the legislature, and that needs to change.

“We hear from the press what’s going on. That’s a problem in itself. As we move forward, we will have a better understanding of what is happening, and then the Legislature will take appropriate action for the people of West Virginia,” Blair said.

Sager emailed Secretary Crouch after the governor’s briefing on Wednesday and asked if he would sit down to talk to her about the changes at DHHR.

During the media briefing, Secretary Crouch said critical positions in child and adult protection services were not part of this recruitment freeze.

For previous coverage:

WSAZ determined | Overpriced and disappointing

WSAZ determined | Overpriced and unconvincing update

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