CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Karen Bowling told legislators Monday she concurs with most recommendations in the Public Works LLC audit of her department -- but not with its proposal to split it into separate divisions focused on health care and on human services.
"What you don't need is to break up the organization. You need to make sure the spheres intersect," she told the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources Accountability.
Bowling told legislators she supports most of the 78 recommendations in the audit prepared by the Pennsylvania-based consulting firm, but disagrees with its assertion that breaking the department into two divisions would allow state resources to be used more efficiently.
Bowling said she believes the health and human services programs need to be further integrated, not divided, and said the size of the 5,700-employee department is not a problem.
That drew a rebuke from House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, noting that Bowling is the latest in a succession of DHHR secretaries to say it is not necessary to divide up the department.
"Yet, Madame Secretary, our statistics are not changing. In fact, they are getting worse," he said. "We cannot spend two or three more years doing the same thing, and getting the same result."
He added, "I've said before, and will not retract the statement, that we have a train wreck looming."
Bowling said she respects Perdue's position, and understands his perspective for supporting breaking up the department.
"Obviously, change is needed and my job as a leader is to assure we take appropriate steps," Bowling said.
Bowling said she not only supports most of Public Works' recommendations, but is working closely with its auditors to refine the proposals.
"Public Works gave us a springboard ... but it's just the beginning of a full analysis of the DHHR," she said.
"I believe we have a great opportunity," Bowling told legislators. "I know a lot of [past DHHR] secretaries have said the same thing."Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.