West Virginia Health Department Splits Heads With Governor | National Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Senate on Friday approved a bill that would split the massive Department of Health and Human Resources into separate departments.

Senators passed the bill without debate on a 32-2 vote. It now heads to the governor.

Under the bill, the DHHR would be split into the Department of Health and the Department of Human Resources.

The bill originated in the House of Delegates, where some supporters said the move was long overdue for such a large agency and could help better address the state’s drug addiction crisis. West Virginia has the highest drug overdose death rate in the country.

Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr, a Putnam County Republican, withdrew an amendment the committee passed earlier this week that would have established two assistant secretaries, one to oversee each department and report to the governor. .

Instead, the Senate adopted the House version of having one secretary for each new department with no assistant secretaries.

DHHR currently has a cabinet secretary, Bill Crouch, who oversees a $7.6 billion budget, or 39% of all state spending, while 11 secretaries from other departments oversee 60% remaining state expenditure.

The split in DHHR dates back to a 2013 consultancy report that suggested such a move would allow for more efficient use of agency resources.

New department secretaries would be in place by next January, and new departments would start in July 2023. The financial cost to the state of the change in the next fiscal budget would be $300,000 for the cabinet secretary and assistant additional administrative.

Among the agencies that would report to the Department of Human Resources are the offices of Social Services, Medical Services, Child Support Enforcement, Family Assistance, and Behavioral Health. The West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health includes the state’s Office of Drug Control Policy and the Office of Maternal, Child, and Family Health.

The Ministry of Health would include the offices of public health, health facilities, the inspector general, the office of licensing and certification of health facilities, and the state health care authority.

The bill would allow new departments to decide how to oversee the state Women’s Commission and Human Rights Commission.

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