Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

WV State News

December 10, 2013

W.Va. DHHR changes planned to address issues

CHARLESTON — Changes are in the works at the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources in response to an audit that found the sprawling agency is inefficient and is not getting results that it should from the millions of dollars that it spends.

DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling plans to break the agency into three divisions covering human services, health services, and insurance and strategic planning. Each division would oversee several bureaus within the agency. Deputy secretaries would be appointed to lead the divisions,   and they would report to Bowling.

Bowling outlined the plan Monday during a legislative interim committee meeting, the Charleston Daily Mail (http://bit.ly/1cmwW94) reported.

Bowling said the plan would give bureau heads more time to deal with their offices’ day-to-day workings.

“There are too many people that need to have an audience with the cabinet secretary,” she said of the agency’s current structure. “The administrative work needs to be done by the deputies and people in the cabinet secretary’s office.”

“We think it doesn’t add bureaucracy, but takes away,” she said.

Under the plan, the deputy of Human Services would oversee the Bureau for Children and Families and the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement. The deputy of Health Services would oversee the Bureau for Public Health and the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities.

The deputy of Public Insurance and Strategic Planning would oversee the DHHR’s Bureau for Medical Services, as well as two newly created offices, Health Improvement and Grant Strategy.

“The populations we serve overlap. All of our bureaus and all that we do, there’s an overlapping component to how we serve,” Bowling said.

After the meeting, Bowling told the newspaper that she likely would not need legislative approval to make most of the changes needed. But she wants to work collaboratively with the Legislature and the Governor’s Office moving forward.

The audit by consulting firm Public Works outlined 78 recommendations for revamping the DHHR , including restructuring the agency into two divisions dealing with health care and human services, each led by a deputy secretary, while shutting down or combining several.

Bowling told lawmakers that a three-pronged structure would be more efficient for the agency.

The audit also detailed how high turnover, hundreds of unfilled jobs and rising overtime costs combine to hamper the agency’s efforts.

Bowling said the turnover rate has improved since she arrived at the agency in July and is now at 23 percent. But she said more improvement is needed.

She attributed turnover mainly to employee pay.

Pay raises likely won’t be possible this year but the agency can take steps to improve the work environment and reduce the number of people who quit, she said. These steps include streamlining the hiring process, so the agency fills empty positions faster

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