Justice appoints new DHHR cabinet secretaries

May 26 – The split in the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) resulted in the creation of three new cabinet-level positions.

Governor Jim Justice said during his administrative briefing on Wednesday that the new secretaries will do a “phenomenal job.”

Dr. Sherri Young, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of the Vandalia Health Network, will serve as Secretary of the Department of Health; Cynthia Persily, PhD, vice chancellor of health sciences at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, will lead the department of social services; and Michael Caruso, a healthcare consultant currently working with Orchard Park Hospital, will serve as Secretary of the Department of Healthcare Facilities.

Young said the Department of Health will look at “what we have and what we need,” building on whatever is working well and seeing what else can be done.

“We have work to do,” she said.

Persily said social services are vital as they serve the state’s most vulnerable population, dealing with children and families, including nutrition, health care and behavioral issues.

“Our goal of improvement will begin with the quality of life for our fellow West Virginians,” she said. “I’m ready to get to work.”

Caruso said he was “grateful and honored” to be part of the new team.

“We’ve made incredible progress on DHHR, and the accomplishments have been remarkable because we’re pulling the rope together,” Justice said. “As we reorganize DHHR into three departments, I am confident that these cabinet secretaries will maintain the outstanding improvements we have made and continue to make us proud. There are so many positive things happening at DHHR, and we want to keep improving things as we transition to this new organizational structure, and I’m sure our new cabinet secretaries will help us get there.

“I know you will do a phenomenal job,” Justice told the new secretaries.

Dr. Jeffrey Coben, Acting Cabinet Secretary of DHHR, will continue to assist during the reorganization process. Dr. Clay Marsh and retired Major General James Hoyer will also continue to play an advisory role.

The DHHR, which has about 6,000 employees, has for years been at the center of controversies over the effectiveness of such a large department.

The justice ordered a study of the agency but did not follow the advice to leave the agency intact as the study recommended.

The House Bill 2006 was passed in the 2023 legislative session to reorganize the DHHR into three separate departments, each overseen by its own cabinet-level secretary, effective January 1, 2024.

The three new secretaries will begin working with their respective departments in the coming months in preparation for the official transition on January 1, 2024.

The Department of Health will include the Office of Public Health, Office of Emergency Medical Services, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Center for Threat Preparedness, Health Care Authority, Office of Inspector General and the Commission on Human Rights.

The Department of Human Services will include the Office of Behavioral Health, Office of Child Support Enforcement, Office of Family Assistance, Office of Medical Services, Office of Social Services and Office of drug control policy.

The Health Facilities Department will include Hopemont Hospital, Jackie Withrow Hospital, John Manchin Sr. Health Care Center, Lakin Hospital, Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital, Welch Community Hospital and the William R. Sharpe, Jr. Hospital.

The three cabinet secretaries will also develop a memorandum of understanding to establish the Office of Shared Administration, which will provide shared services from centralized units such as finance, human resources management, management and voter services, according to the Office of Justice.

— Contact Charles Boothe at [email protected]

Contact Charles Boothe at [email protected]

Leave a Reply