Nov. 26 – An organizational review by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) clearly shows: The state’s bureaucracy and political forces have neglected themselves when it comes to attending to the needs of the people of West Virginia , especially around the most vulnerable.
And while our standing among other states is embarrassingly low, what matters most is abandoning our moral duty to provide for our own. We fail miserably at this – and people, including children, die from it.
Instead of improving the delivery of public health care, instead of increasing the staff of child protection services so they can better oversee the treatment of vulnerable children in the home and in foster care, instead of investing in proven solutions to reduce food insecurity, instead of programs to reduce drug addiction Instead of providing teachers with more classroom support, rather than paving the way for more of this state’s high school grads to attend and finish college, lawmakers along with the governor have deliberately ignored the grueling effects of low socioeconomic status and challenging Conditions that routinely drive many families to despair.
The interests of the Republican faction, as Amendment No 2 has clearly shown, lie in tax policy, particularly how taxes can be reduced to the greater benefit of the wealthy, big business and extra-state corporations. And to no one’s surprise, the people of the state told their elected leaders in so many words what to do with their valuable election proposal.
That shouldn’t have gone unnoticed by our lawmakers, but evidence suggests they just shrugged and moved on.
The report by McChrystal Group LLC of Alexandria, Virginia, which attempted to provide a “holistic view of DHHR to identify its problems, bottlenecks and inefficiencies,” comes at a time when the state is awash with cash – somewhere in like a budget surplus of $1.3 billion. It doesn’t take a financial genius or a rocket scientist to know that much could be improved by providing DHHR services with well-directed investments of some of these funds.
The report concluded that “the status quo is not an option for improving health and social service outcomes in West Virginia.”
And yet the people of West Virginia, apparently comfortable in an old pair of worn shoes, have compounded the problems created by the status quo by re-electing the very people who throw a spanner in the works for progress.
We also do not share Governor Jim Justice’s confidence in DHHR’s current management. Upon receipt of the report, Attorney General Bill Crouch and his leadership team directed the implementation of the study’s recommendations.
Given that these are the very managers who have allowed the state agency to continue to get off the rails, we doubt they will suddenly act “effectively and efficiently” to “ensure that no vital support or services are provided.” fail,” as the governor said.
Yes, the state’s DHHR is under stress due to the many overlapping challenges that have only surfaced during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Still, under the current DHHR administration, the state ranks last in terms of life expectancy and last in rate of drug-related deaths. West Virginia has the highest percentage of minors in foster care and ranks second for food insecurity.
These are challenges that have answers.
In the new year’s legislature, our political leaders should correct course and focus on issues that, once resolved, would fundamentally change the narrative of this state.
As written in the McChrystal report, our script does not lead to a happy ending.