By JOHN RABY, Associated Press
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia‘s House of Delegates approved a bill Wednesday that would split the massive Department of Health and Human Resources into separate departments.
The bill passed the House on an 83-11 vote and heads to the state Senate. It would split the DHHR into the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Health.
“I think this is long overdue,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, Matthew Rohrbach, who chairs the House Health and Human Resources Committee.
The DHHR currently has one cabinet secretary, Bill Crouch, overseeing a $7.6 billion budget, or 39% of the state’s entire spending, while 11 secretaries from other departments oversee the remaining 60% of state spending, said Rohrbach, a Cabell County Republican.
The DHHR split goes back to a 2013 consulting firm report that suggested such a move would allow for a more efficient use of agency resources.
The two secretaries of the new agencies would be in place by next January with the new agencies being effective in July 2023. The change’s financial cost to the state in the next fiscal budget would be $300,000 for the new cabinet secretary and administrative assistant.
Among the agencies that would be included under the Department of Human Resources are the bureaus of Social Services, Medical Services, Child Support Enforcement, Family Assistance, and Behavioral Health. Behavioral Health includes the state Office of Drug Control Policy and the Office of Maternal Child and Family Health
The Department of Health would include the bureaus of Public Health, Health Facilities, Inspector General, the Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification, and the state Health Care Authority.
The bill would allow the new departments to decide how to oversee the state Women’s Commission and the Human Rights Commission.
Kanawha County Republican Dianna Graves said the change could help address the state’s substance abuse crisis. West Virginia has the nation’s highest drug overdose death rate.
“It’s really hard to argue that West Virginia has been dealing with a drug crisis in a stellar way. It’s not because we aren’t trying,” Graves said. “But having to funnel almost all of our efforts through a massively inefficient agency is not working.”
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