WSAZ Investigates | Overpriced and Underwhelming

WSAZ Investigates | Overpriced and Underwhelming
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 7:22 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - More than $1 million of your tax dollars were spent on a top to bottom review of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

The report states that bold, organizational change is needed, but lawmakers are calling it overpriced and underwhelming - saying it lacks any real substance that could help improve the agency or deliver better service to citizens.

Lawmakers are less than impressed with what was supposed to be a sweeping review of West Virginia’s largest state agency -- the Department of Health and Human Resources.

The review -- conducted by the McChrystal Group, a consulting firm based in Virginia -- came with a price tag of more than $1 million of your tax dollars. A few days after its release to the public on Nov. 10, lawmakers got to ask McChrystal representatives about what many call a lack of substance.

“Top to bottom to me means all encompassing. This is not all encompassing,” said Craig Blair, R, president of the West Virginia Senate.

Mr. Secretary, what have you learned from this report that you weren’t already aware of before we the people spent one million dollars?” asked Del. Amy Summers, R-Taylor.

Del. Heather Tully, R-Nicholas, said “I don’t know that. - think it took a consulting group to come in to tell him that he should be communicating with some of the other leaders in the bureau.”

“There is a follow up report coming that’s going to be a lot more in-depth, am I correct? Blair said.

“No, sir. this is the final report,” said Meghan Bourne, partner with McChrystal Group.

“This is the final report?” “I’m done, thank you,” Blair said.

The review was ordered by Gov. Jim Justice in March after he vetoed a bill that would have split the agency into two separate departments.

The McChrystal Group says it spent four months conducting interviews with employees and members of organizations that collaborate with DHHR. They also say they observed meetings and reviewed documents.

Delegate Amy Summers, who’s from Taylor County, sits on both legislative committees that were briefed by McChrystal reps about the review.

“So, you’re saying you didn’t do any process analysis at all? No Six Sigma things on how things are run for different departments. You just stayed at the structural top layer?” Summers asked.

Bourne replied, “We did look at processes specially. Many of those documents that we received were process-specific documents, and we reviewed them. We did not conduct Six Sigma type efforts to look at how you would improve those processes. There are simply too many of them for 120 days.”

Summers said, “As a person that’s a hospital employee, who works in an ER which is crisis centered all the time, I read your strategic plan and, to be quite honest, in one minute I can know that my mission is to improve health care. My values are to have more access to health care. What are your different things? Your values? Your mission? I know what my roles are. I need to collaborate with others. I need to be respectful. I need to be accountable to my actions. I mean, that’s the gist of your whole thing. But, by God as a worker, I need to know how I do these things. I need to be provided. When I read your things where people don’t have phones. People don’t have internet. People don’t have the tools to do the jobs they need to do. They don’t have enough help. Those are the things that I’m worried about that you didn’t even look at because we spent all this time developing a strategic plan that I could have put together in five minutes.”

Among the only real changes we found was a plan to reorganize the top layer of the department under the cabinet secretary. The plan would add a third deputy secretary and each would have a specific focus. Those three deputy secretaries, three other executive level leaders, and the cabinet secretary would make up an executive leadership team.

We also found a 2013 review of DHHR conducted by another consulting firm out of Pennsylvania. It recommended nearly 80 concrete steps the state could take to improve specific processes and problems. That review called for structural changes, too -- changes lawmakers say were put into place years ago.

“We’ve tried all of those things in the past. We’ve had three deputy secretaries. We’ve had integrated teams. That’s where I’m worries about the crux of the report.

WSAZ’s Sarah Sager reached out to the McChrystal Group for an interview after the presentations, but they told us, “We are currently unavailable for media interviews.”

Sager also requested interviews with Governor Justice and Secretary Crouch to ask what changes were going to be made and how they plan to implement but was told they were unavailable outside of the Justice’s COVID-19 media briefings. Those briefings are typically held virtually a couple of times a week. They allow reporters to ask one question, with no chance to follow up.

Since that was Sager’s only opportunity, she joined the call last week.

Sager: “Secretary Crouch, the top to bottom report. We’ve looked that over. There are many mission style statement style information on there, not a lot of actions or solutions to real life and death issues. So, what are specifically some of the bold transformational changes that are going to be implemented? Is this just adding more deputy secretaries?

Crouch: “I want to say I don’t need the time addressing this publicly, but I need the time to speak to our staff first. I think they should hear some of these changes before the public does, before those are sent out through the press. You will be hearing from DHHR within the next week with regard to some of these decisions.”

Gov. Justice held a briefing Tuesday, so Sager joined that call, too -- anticipating hearing about those changes.

Sager: Last week, you said you would be able to provide an update this week about any changes that are going to be implemented at DHHR from the top-to-bottom review from the McChrystal Group. Are you able to talk about any of the changes or anything that’s been implemented?

Crouch: “I did say it would be this week, it will be next week. It’s Thanksgiving week, so we’re going to hold off on those announcements.”

Gov. Justice: “We probably shouldn’t have said we’re going to announce this week and not announce this week, but I’ll promise you that we’ll make that announcement on Monday.

As West Virginians keep waiting for those announcements, lawmakers say -- based on the report -- they are less than hopeful it will lead to meaningful, much-needed change.

“We’ve gotten the same result over and over by doing exactly the same thing,” Blair said. “From what I can interpret here, you’re saying throw more money and throw more time but keep doing the same thing. This is what I’ve read into your report or what I’ve gotten from it. Frankly, it looks like a million dollar waste of our taxpayer dollars.”