As of January 1, 2024, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services (DHHR) has been disbanded and its services divided between three different new agencies: The Department of Health; The Department of Human Services; and the Department of Health Facilities.
This was done through legislation passed by the State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Jim Justice on March 6, 2023.
The new Department of Health will include the Bureau for Public Health, the Office of Emergency Medical Services, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, the Center for Threat Preparedness, the Health Care Authority, the Office of Inspector General and the Human Rights Commission.
The new Department of Human Services will include the Bureau for Behavioral Health, the Bureau for Child Support Enforcement, the Bureau for Family Assistance, the Bureau for Medical Services, the Bureau for Social Services and the Office of Drug Control Policy.
The new Department of Health Facilities will include Hopemont Hospital, Jackie Withrow Hospital, John Manchin Sr. Health Care Center, Lakin Hospital, Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital, Welch Community Hospital and William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital.
The legislature and the Governor felt that the old DHHR agency had grown to the point it was encumbered by so many different functions and entities that it was just too large to operate efficiently. Another possible motivation for this transformation appears to be related to some controversies surrounding the DHHR’s handling of some public records issues concerning their Foster Care Program.
Each of these three new agencies will be managed by its own Cabinet Secretary appointed by Justice.
Department of Health Cabinet Secretary is Dr. Sherri A. Young, DO. Dr. Young had served as Interim Director of the DHHR since July, 2023, and prior to that was the Associate Chief Medical Officer to the Vandalia Health Network. Dr. Young is a graduate of the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in nearby Lewisburg, and still serves on the Board of that school.
Department of Human Services Cabinet Secretary is Dr. Cynthia Persily, PhD. Prior to assuming her role at the Department of Human Services, Dr. Persily was Vice Chancellor of Health Services at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
The Cabinet Secretary for the Department of Health Facilities is Michael Caruso. Prior to his new position, Caruso was a Healthcare consultant for the Orchard Park Hospital and had many years of leadership experience with Spectrum Health Partners.
The new departments will receive administrative support services from another newly created state agency, the Office of Shared Administration, which is still being organized. That office will provide administrative services such as finance, human resources management, management information services, and constituent services and was created to centralize, thus to minimize a lot of the bureaucracy for the new departments.
The public is being assured that separating of the DHHR into three new departments has been carefully planned and designed so that West Virginia citizens who have been receiving services from the former DHHR should not experience any disruption in those services, nor of any of the benefits they receive.