WSAZ Investigates | Overpriced and underwhelming follow-up

WSAZ Investigates | Overpriced and underwhelming follow-up
Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 7:21 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - For a week now, we’ve been telling you about a top to bottom review of West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources.

Several announcements have been made this week about changes at the agency following that review. Lawmakers say it’s not enough, and our efforts to get clarity have been stonewalled.

Those announcements came in the form of three news releases detailing changes being made at West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) following a top to bottom review of the agency.

That review was ordered by Gov. Jim Justice after he vetoed a bill earlier this year that would have split the department into two separate agencies.

The more than $1 million taxpayer funded, top-to-bottom review was conducted by the McChrystal Group -- a consulting firm based in Virginia.

A report from the review was released publicly earlier this month, and legislators were less than impressed.

Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said at the November interims, “Top to bottom to me means all encompassing. this is not all encompassing.”

Del. Amy Summers, R-Taylor said, “Mr. Secretary, what have you learned from this report that you weren‘t already aware of before we the people spent one million dollars?”

Del. Heather Tully, R-Nicholas said, “I don’t know that I 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.”

Among the changes announced by DHHR this week in news releases were two new deputy secretaries named, bringing the total to three as recommended by the McChrystal Group.

On Monday, Cammie Chapman was announced as the new Deputy Secretary of Child and Adult Services.

On Tuesday, Christina Mullins was named Deputy Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders.

On Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary, Bill Crouch, announced structural changes within the department, as well as a hiring freeze within DHHR.

Since lawmakers were so outspoken after reading through the report, WSAZ’s Sarah Sager reached out to Senate President, Craig Blair, to get his thoughts on the changes so far.

“Shuffling the deck chairs with the same people and expecting different results. I don’t expect to see much of an outcome on this,” Blair said.

So, what does Blair mean by shuffling people around?

Newly appointed Deputy Secretary Chapman has already been serving at DHHR since 2018 as Associate General Counsel.

The other newly appointed Deputy Secretary Mullins has long worked for DHHR, most recently serving as the Commissioner of the Department’s Bureau for Behavioral Health.

Then there’s Russ Crane, an existing Deputy Secretary that so far has not been appointed a specific focus.

WSAZ’s Sarah Sager reached out to DHHR, looking for clarity on any changes to Crane’s role. She was told she would have to wait until the governor’s COVID-19 media briefing today to get answers.

Sager: “Secretary Crouch, what do you say to some criticism of how the restructuring of DHHR is going – that we’re just reshuffling people within the department and expecting different outcomes? That’s my first question. Second question: Are there any more announcements expected this week regarding any of the changes within the McChrystal Group’s report? Third question: Secretary Crouch, are you open to in-person interviews? If so, I’d like to request one. I’ve been working to try and get an in-person interview with you since the beginning of the year – even asking the Governor if he would help me get an in-person interview with you. So, just putting that out there on the record, I’d like to get one. Thank you.”

During the briefing on Wednesday, Secretary Crouch only answered one of Sager’s questions.

“I think there’s going to be criticism regardless of what I do at this point. DHHR is under a microscope here. We do a lot of good things every day for a huge number of people in this state, tens of thousands of people in this state. So, I’d like to focus on the good stuff, but I know a lot of people want to focus on other areas that they think are failures,” Crouch said.

However, Gov. Jim Justice followed up.

“I’ll absolutely urge Bill Crouch to talk to you and absolutely him be interviewed by you. I think it’s great that he does that, but you’ve got to give him just a little bit of time and a little bit of wiggle room here. I’m not an expert in all the different areas that DHHR deals with, but I can assure you, Sarah, with all in me, I am an expert in this: I’m an impatient guy, and I want results. And absolutely with all in me if we don’t have results we’ll have different players,” Justice said.

Lawmakers say the lack of communication extends to the Legislature as well, and that needs to change.

“We hear what’s going on through the press. That’s a problem in itself. As we get moving forward, we’ll have a better understanding of what’s happening, and then the Legislature will take appropriate actions for the people of West Virginia,” Blair said.

Sager reached out to Secretary Crouch by email after the governor’s briefing on Wednesday asking if he will sit down to speak with her about the changes at DHHR.

During the media briefing, Secretary Crouch did say critical positions in child and adult protective services are not part of that hiring freeze.

For previous coverage:

WSAZ Investigates | Overpriced and Underwhelming

WSAZ Investigates | Overpriced and underwhelming update