CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has appointed a new director of state government's largest agency.
Karen Bowling will serve as the next cabinet secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Resources. Her appointment is effective July 1.
"Karen's commitment to the health and wellbeing of her community has been evident throughout her career and her community involvement -- including her volunteer work as a family nurse practitioner for the West Virginia Health Right Clinic," Tomblin said in a news release.
Bowling, 55, takes over for acting DHHR Secretary Rocco Fucillo.
Fucillo has faced criticism for several incidents, including administrative action against two department attorneys and a spokesperson following a dispute over a department contract.
In a statement emailed by a spokesperson, Fucillo said it was an honor to lead the DHHR and the department had several successes during his tenure. He pointed to the department's response to two major storms last year, the way it addressed truancy issues with the Legislature and Supreme Court and a general review of services.
"We are tearing down silos and looking at all our programs as one department, not five separate bureaus, to better serve our citizens," Fucillo said.
Fucillo said he was inspired by hardworking DHHR employees and would help Bowling as she takes on her new role. He said he would consider his best interests while looking at future opportunities.
Bowling will be paid $175,000 a year, thanks to a change state lawmakers made this year. The DHHR secretary's salary previously was set at $95,000. The Legislature bumped up the pay after criticism that the current salary wouldn't attract the best candidates.
She takes over the DHHR at a tumultuous time. With a $4 billion annual budget and nearly 6,000 employees, it oversees a wide array of health services including Medicaid.
Tomblin recently announced the state is expanding eligibility for the program, in accordance with a federal funding program under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The DHHR is in charge of taking on the expected 91,500 new Medicaid participants by Oct. 1, when they can start to enroll.