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Restructuring DHHR creates 3 leadership positions

By Lydia Nuzum, Staff writer

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources plans to create three new upper-level positions and abolish two others within the agency to streamline its operation without splitting into two divisions — a suggestion that stemmed from a 2013 audit of its operations.

According to DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling, the agency has already implemented a “large number” of the suggestions outlined in the audit, conducted by Public Works LLC. Bowling told legislators in September that she disagreed with an audit recommendation that advised the DHHR to split into separate divisions that focused on health care and human services.

“I’ve made a point to determine which of those recommendations I could implement, and one of the overarching themes in that document was that there was a need to make sure an agency the size of the DHHR had a structure in place that would really ensure there would be efficient operations and communication,” Bowling said.

Molly Jordan will serve as deputy secretary of health services, overseeing the Bureau for Public Health and the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities. Harold Clifton will serve as deputy secretary of human services, overseeing the Bureau for Children and Families and the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement, and Jeremiah Samples will serve as deputy secretary of public insurance and strategic planning, overseeing the Bureau for Medical Services, the Office of Health Improvement, and Grant Strategy.

All three are current employees of the agency, and the positions now held by Jordan and Samples will not be filled, Bowling said. Samples serves as DHHR assistant secretary, and Jordan was its deputy Cabinet secretary for programs and policy. Jordan is slated to retire in June, when her new position will be filled again.

“If you were to look at the prior organizational chart, what you would see is a very large organization, with everyone reporting to the Cabinet secretary,” Bowling said. “The idea behind the vision is to ensure that, from an accountability standpoint, there is a good outcome for all of our bureaus. We really needed to be able to make quick decisions and good decisions, and if the Cabinet secretary is the only reporting entity, that can really delay those decisions.”

The DHHR has 5,700 employees.

In September, House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, said Bowling is the last in a succession of Cabinet secretaries unwilling to divide the “looming train wreck” that the unwieldy size of the agency presents.

“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.”

Public Works recommended 78 changes to the DHHR. Other recommendations included establishing statewide advisory councils to address health-care costs and strategies, develop a coordinated strategy for pursuing grant opportunities, and allowing program managers access to budget information related  to managing grant money.

According to Bowling, the three new positions the DHHR has created will allow for more day-to-day efficiency for the agency. 

“Some of the day-to-day operational issues, if you liken what we do to something within the private sector, those operations really need to run smoothly,” she said. “The head of the organization doesn’t need to be involved in every single day-to-day operation, because that breeds inefficiency.”

Jordan has served as deputy Cabinet secretary for programs and policy for the DHHR since February 2011 and as inspector general for nine years. Before that, she worked in the private sector in long-term health-care services and administration. She will retire June 30.

Clifton has served as director of human resources management since 2010, and previously was the director of employee management. He has 32 years of service in state government in social services and human resources, including serving as a community services manager. The agency plans to hire a new director for human resources.

Samples has served as DHHR assistant secretary since July 2013. He previously was director of health policy for the West Virginia Office of the Insurance Commissioner, and assisted with health-policy strategic planning for the Governor’s Office of Health Enhancement and Lifestyle Planning. 

Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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