CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Top officials with the state Department of Health and Human Resources will have some explaining to do during a court hearing later this month focused on ongoing problems, including staffing shortages, at the state’s two psychiatric hospitals.

Earlier this week, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom found the DHHR in contempt of court and scheduled a show-cause hearing for July 15. Karen Bowling, DHHR secretary, and Victoria Jones, Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities commissioner, have been ordered to attend.

The agency could face sanctions for not, in Bloom’s view, adequately addressing staffing shortages at Mildred Mitchell Bateman Hospital in Huntington and William R. Sharpe, Jr. Hospital in Weston. In the short term, Bloom called for the immediate reduction of patients at the two sites to help with understaffing issues.

In a statement, Jones said the DHHR had developed and provided three options that they believed were in compliance with Bloom’s directives.

“No action by the Bureau warrants a contempt order,” she said. “We are continuing to provide the highest quality of care for our patients and to strive for a positive working environment for our employees.”

Bloom rejected the three DHHR proposals, offered in June, that had included turning the mental health facilities into private facilities or changing the classifications of the workers to allow for more scheduling flexibility.

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  • the truth

    Vickie Jones was demoted into this position from Commissioner. This has been a long time coming and DHHR is getting everything they deserve. When you pay your support staff barely above minimum wage then burn any quality workers out by working them sixteen hour days all the time your going to have problems. What also needs to happen is Bloom to order the Division of Personnel to appear and ask them why they obstruct anything that concerns salary and also the ask the governor's office to appear because they have to approve every hire.
    DHHR has never operated at full force. They cannot hire people due to the pay. They are at any time missing 10% of their workforce due to vacancies and Tomblins unending hiring freeze will run more people off and cause even more issues. One needs to ask how much money has been paid out in lawsuits against these facilities. My suggestion is if you have a family member in the facility you need to sue. DHHR is liable and that is at the feet of Tomblin. Both him and Manchin have run agencies into the ground because they starve out any quality staff. You get what you pay for and you the taxpayer have paid for this mess. People will say why not fire Jones, they should, but they cannot hire anyone. The job was vacant for two years because no one would take the job. Vent your anger at the Tomblin administration as they are the ones running this into the ground. Tomblin has specifically forbid any merit increase and cares nothing for the average state worker or taxpayer who will have to foot the bill for these lawsuits and fallout from Blooms court orders. I bet he takes care of his cronies like Manchin.

    • Dreama Kelly

      And the State makes it almost impossible to become a licensed Social Worker or licensed Counselor! Once you jump through all those required hoops, your reward is low pay and long hours. The licensing rules and regs need revisited.

      • Carol Skidmore

        The DHHR doesn't make the rules. They only have to follow them. The social work board makes the rules so that should be the agency that is held accountable for social work shortages.