CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The new Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources said the size of the agency, which spends billions of dollars each year and employs thousands of people, is not the main problem.

“What has been probably the challenge in our organization is maybe the way we’ve managed it or maybe a lack of integration, a lack of structural clarity so people know how to use the system to their advantage,” said Karen Bowling.

Bowling, who is from Beckley, took over as DHHR Secretary on July 1.  She was in front of the Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Resources Accountability on Monday at the State Capitol.

She talked about a new strategic direction DHHR is implementing, focused on serving the health needs of West Virginians, and compared its provisions to recommendations in a comprehensive audit from Public Works that was released to the public earlier this year.

“We want to foster solutions,” said Bowling.  “We can talk about it, but we want to do something about it.  We want solutions.  We want people to give us their ideas.  We’re open to suggestions.  We want to hear from the stakeholders in the community.”

The audit from Public Works concluded West Virginia’s health care system is “fraught with systemic challenges involving rising health care costs, poor health outcomes and lack of access to appropriate care.”

“However, West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources and other health care agencies, rather than working together to mitigate these problems, are beset by fragmentation, an insufficient workforce, and the lack of an overarching strategic vision and a sustained mechanism for accountability,” the report said.

The Public Works audit included 78 recommendations that, researchers said, could save the state more than $56 million.

Bowling said there are a lot of details that will have to be addressed before any large scale overhaul for DHHR which has an annual budget of $4 billion.  About $2.7 billion of that amount comes from the federal government, mostly for Medicaid.

“We believe that we’re very integrated and that it needs to continue to be integrated.  Public Works agrees with that,” she said.  “How we reorganize, though, the specifics of it is, sort of, yet to be determined, but the idea is to decrease the bureaucracy and add to the interconnectivity between the bureaus.”

September interim meetings for state lawmakers continue through Wednesday at the State Capitol.

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Comments

  • FunUnderTheRadar

    Those in control only hire the uneducated. There are numerous people in Bureau for Children & Families (BCF) without formal education making 40k to 50k a year to schedule parties & spread gossip or socialize all day at work, while pretending to be executive/administrative secretaries. One way communication and bureau level bosses make sure rank & file concerns & suggestions are never heard. The mantra at the bureau level is: maintain your silo (empire) at all cost. Another BIG problem is the Division of Personnel (DOP). DOPs primary concern is to protect the interest of the machine at tax payer expense. Doug Robinson’s legacy, while at BCF, will be the promotion and appointment of people who are incapable of making a decision, take the job personally, and promote those least likely to think on their own & not a threat to uncover the blunders during Robinson’s tenure. I could go on & on & on, but nothing will change, except creating more committees and hiring consultants to form task groups to talk about talking about talking about improving the organization for the benefit of the citizens. Meanwhile, turnover will continue to run rampant & the Peter Principle is alive & well in DHHR!

  • FungoJoe

    I used to work at the DHHR for about 12 years. I lasted only one year in a county office. It is a horrible place to work. The Social Work mentality that permeates throughout DHHR is a huge problem. Social Workers seem like the only ones who get promoted. The Inspector General's office of DHHR, who is legislated to oversee the integrity of the welfare programs, is rife with corruption. They would rather investigate an employee taking an old piece of office equipment out of a dumpster, than prosecute welfare cheats. There are more people in supervisory positions in DHHR that have absolutely no business being supervisors. They have no idea how to treat employees. They get on a big power trip, and before you know it, half of a unit has left and found another job. DHHR is corrupt and that corruption is very deeply entrenched. Take it from someone who has been there.

  • Damion45

    "The new Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources said the size of the agency, which spends billions of dollars each year and employs thousands of people, is not the main problem."

    She is wrong.
    Next will be "we are going to run it like the private sector". Then, "we have hired an experienced consulting firm to implement these recommendations...". Later, "it is time to reorganize (again)". But by then, budget cuts and lay offs will be required. Then, we will get a new Secretary who will say the size of DHHR isn't the problem. Meanwhile, nothing has changed.
    Many in the legislature know this but don't want to take on the challenge. Neither does the governor. So getting through the day remains the top priority.

  • sam

    the problem is people in charge that are not in touch with the real world. they worry about there pay checks instead of their jobs. How about real cops doing the internal investigations. you do not learn this stuff from a book. get back in touch with reality. the state has outstanding people which are employed with other state agencies that are willing to move and help if the broken system was was opened up....

  • the truth

    DHHR is to have 6600 employees. DHHR covers just about every aspect of life in West Virginia from health care to water quality to child safety. The problem is has been building for years. Any given time you have 600 vacancies in DHHR due to low pay and job pressure. You also at any given day are missing another 600 due to illness or other issues. You can look at the job postings and see they want to pay 24000.00 or less a year for a college graduate. They pay scale will show a pay range for jobs, do not let it fool you, as you will always be on the bottom of the pay scale. They can keep no one because you cannot get a raise or be rewarded for dedicated work. Tomlin issued a directive forbidding any raise based on merit. Manchin gave no one a raise but his inner circle cronies. They have said since 2008 that they are fixing the pay scales and job descriptions. They wasted a half million dollars on another contractor and Division of Personnel is still setting on the Hays Group work.
    DHHR will never be fixed because you have management that is disconnected and Tomblin who shows no concern about all these agencies on the verge of collapse. If you read the news, Corrections, DHHR and DOH has the same issue. People now use state jobs to get experience then they leave. I could not recommend anyone come work for the state and I would stay away from DHHR as Obamacare is going to collapse the Agency. DHHR has been aware of this crises forever but when you lurch from one problem to another you solve nothing. I have heard upper management is DHHR say they have made the Governor aware but can get no assistance.
    Look how many DHHR Secretaries have come and gone in the last five years. Unstable is the word in all areas of DHHR. My unit is currently down 25% of our work force and we have very few qualified applicants. We have had one vacancy for over two years.
    People need to ask why it is so unstable. The word is simple, Manchin and now Tomblin want to starve out their employees.
    I do not want to grow state government but I say you trade higher pay so you can keep good employees and do it by having merit pay only. If you have a qualified stable workforce you can do more with less. Now you just have new people looking to leave and are gone. I would say areas of DHHR turn over their workforce every three years.

    • susanf

      You absolutely have spoken the truth! And it is not just in DHHR, DOH, and Corrections - DNR has similar hiring/staffing issues due to the ridiculously low salaries. The saying "Nero fiddled while Rome burned" seems to be an especially appropriate description of Tomblin's response, or lack thereof, to this situation. The only way to get his attention appears to be a massive outbreak of "blue flu". Maybe when all the important work that state employees do every day comes to a screeching halt, he and his cronies will understand who really runs the day to day operations of this state.

    • Hillbilly

      Just Curious... you say you have "very few qualified applicants" - what are the qualifications for these DHHR jobs?

      • the truth

        Hillbilly, the majority of the jobs require a college degree. They want to pay you next to nothing for the degree and you have no movement on the pay scale. Everyone, besides Tomlin inner circle cronies, never gets a raise.
        My job requires a good bit of specialized experience with DHHR programs. You cannot walk in off the street and do my job. You would be lost and it takes about two years of training to be fully functional employee. The problem with many of these jobs you have people that come in work less than a year and leave due to the pay and work conditions. If your a college graduate with debt you cannot afford to work for the state because many of the jobs do not pay a living wage. I know one worker who makes more working for Walmart part time than she does working for the state.
        Endless turnover leads to complete disfunction. If DHHR was not as big as it is it would have collapsed a long time ago, it lumbers along like a shambling half dead creature.

  • Another DHHR Employee

    They spent $800,000 to get this report done.
    Why?

  • steve

    Maybe this Democratic lead Government in the State can bring more jobs and people won't have to rely on welfare and food stamps ...but we would loose our proud name of being a "Welfare State"

    • wvman75

      The only job a democrat can create is a government job. I see them increasing the size of this goatscrew by adding even more employees and costs, while improving nothing in the way of performance or waste and abuse.

  • DHHR Employee

    Am I the only one that wonders...why has this report not been published for the citizens to see?

  • wvman75

    In the first paragraph, she says this:

    "The new Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources said the size of the agency, which spends billions of dollars each year and employs thousands of people, is not the main problem."

    That it employs thousands of people and spends billions of dollars, but isn't the problem.

    Then later, she agrees with the report that says this:

    "However, West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources and other health care agencies, rather than working together to mitigate these problems, are beset by fragmentation, an insufficient workforce, and the lack of an overarching strategic vision and a sustained mechanism for accountability,” the report said.

    An insufficient workforce?

    Which is it? Sounds like they are just planning on growing the bureacracy rather than diminishing it. What a shocker.