The Department of Health and Human Resources (“DHHR”) was West Virginia’s largest executive agency until the Legislature passed House Bill 2006 earlier this month. For several years now, West Virginia lawmakers have been looking into how to handle the enormous agency, improve its function and oversight, and improve the management of the wide range of health and social programs administered by the DHHR. With an annual budget topping $7.5 billion (that’s billion, with a “B”), critics have called the agency unwieldy. For that reason, Governor Jim Justice ordered a top-down review to determine how best to divide the agency to minimize disruption and set it up for future success.
The DHHR review was completed last year. After months of consideration, West Virginia lawmakers introduced House Bill 2006. With the Governor’s signature on March 4, 2023, DHHR is to be split into the Department of Health, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Health Facilities effective January 1, 2024. A fourth agency, the Office of Shared Administration, will also be established and will be jointly administered by the Secretaries of those departments. The Office of Joint Administration is intended to coordinate efforts with the Department of Administration to maximize efficiencies and service functions to help reduce costs.
The Department of Human Services will be responsible initially for the Bureau for Social Services, Bureau for Medical Services, Bureau for Child Support Enforcement, Bureau for Family Assistance, and the Bureau for Behavioral Health. The Department of Health will be tasked with handling the Bureau for Public Health, Office of Emergency Medical Services, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Center for Threat Preparedness, Health Care Authority, and the Office of the Inspector General. And, the Department of Health Facilities will be responsible for operating 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. Aside from requiring the complete implementation of the Office of Shared Administration by June 30, 2024, and noting its function to reduce administrative burdens, the scope of work and responsibility for the Office of Shared Administration is relatively undefined in House Bill 2006.
This transition into three agencies over the remainder of this year will undoubtedly cause some turbulence. As the new agencies begin to emerge, individuals and companies doing business with the DHHR should pay close attention to the new addresses, points of contact, policies, and procedures that will develop. Dinsmore & Shohl’s Health Care and Government Relations practice groups will stay on top of any new developments and send updates, as needed.