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Manageable structure at DHHR long overdue

IT may seem counterintuitive to add a layer of management at the W. Va. Department of Health and Human Resources to improve efficiency - but steps toward reining in an inefficient and largely ineffective DHHR are must-do activities.

Cabinet Secretary Karen Bowling told lawmakers during an interim session Monday of plans to divide the department into three divisions and appoint a deputy secretary for each one.

Her actions are in response to a legislative audit released earlier this year that, among other things, found millions of dollars in waste, a 30 percent turnover rate among employees and excessive spending in overtime pay and travel costs.

The audit outlined 78 recommendations for DHHR, including an overhaul of its cumbersome hiring practices, reining in travel costs and developing a coordinated way to seek and maintain grant funding.

Bowling, who began as cabinet secretary on July 1, said she will assign:

* a deputy for Human Services to oversee the

bureaus of Children and Families, and Child Support Enforcement

* a deputy for Health Services to oversee the

bureaus for Public Health and Behavioral Health, and Health Facilities

* a deputy for Public Insurance and Strategic Planning.

Bowling's plan provides structural clarity and divides the work into manageable divisions like a for-profit company might do. It also will reduce the number of staffers reporting directly to Bowling. Each deputy should be better able to focus on improvements identified in the audit.

"We think it doesn't add bureaucracy, but takes it away," Bowling told lawmakers. "There are too many people that need to have an audience with the cabinet secretary. The administrative work needs to be done by the deputies and people in the cabinet secretary's office."

Accountability is the key. The results will show in the coming years as to whether the secretary and deputy secretaries are being effective in making much-needed improvements to the operation of the Department of Health and Human Resources.


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