Expenditure and Funding Oversight Committee Update | News, Sports, Jobs

CHARLESTON — The Legislative Health and Human Resources Accountability Oversight Committee (LOCHHRA) met for nearly three hours on Tuesday to hear testimony from the Office of the Inspector General and representatives of the Department of Health and West Virginia Human Resources.

Only state senators were present at Tuesday’s meeting, with members of the House of Delegates being called into special session. Christina Mullins, Commissioner of the Bureau for Behavioral Health (BBH) was the first to present.

“From 2017 to 2020, BBH received nearly $201 million,” Mullins started. “We spent over $166 million and returned $34 million – that’s in federal funds.”

Mullins then explained how the majority of these federal funds are “linked to two main grant programs – the State Targeted Response Program and the State Opioid Response Program.”

Although not all of the federal funds have yet been spent, Mullins said, the money has been “critical in the state’s response to substance abuse disorders.”

“We are constantly working to balance the need to deploy financial resources quickly, while ensuring that funds are managed appropriately,” Mullins added.

Mullins also noted that delays in the disbursement of funds were largely unavoidable.

“While BBH saw a greater than 1,200% increase in discretionary funds, West Virginia lacked the infrastructure to quickly expand that level of funding,” Mullins, before adding that significant progress has nevertheless been made.

“The $34 million that was returned to the federal government, why was it returned?” Senator Amy Grady, R-Mason, asked at the end of Mullins’ presentation.

Mullins explained that the funds were returned primarily due to infrastructural and administrative issues encountered while trying to allocate them within acceptable use.

Next to present to the committee was Tisa Wiseman from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

“One of the big questions you had (at the June committee meeting) was about OIG salaries – you wanted to know if DHHR had any input into that process,” Wiseman said. “The answer is that a lot of people have a say. The inspector general, the program manager, whoever hires that person—they make a salary recommendation.

According to Wiseman, the Inspector General has “the last word” on OIG salaries. However, all BIG salaries require final Governor approval.

Sen. Jack David Woodrum, R-Summers, asked which department was responsible for setting the OIG budget, and was informed by Wiseman that the OIG was responsible for setting the budget for itself. As with salaries, the OIG budget requires final approval from the Governor.

The third to speak was Dr Ayne Amjad, Commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health (BPH), who provided the committee with an overview of the Bureau’s hierarchy, including specific responsibilities and current vacancies in departments.

“Is there a strategy to improve the health of our population? Woodrum asked clearly at the end of Amjad’s presentation. “We rank very low with the health of our citizens.”

“We know that West Virginia ranks first in obesity, hypertension, and diabetes,” Amjad replied “Some of the grants – they’re used to try to target the highest risk morbidities, and those are the ones we’re trying to focus on in terms of strategies.”

“Do you see success? » Woodrum continued. “Do you have any data indicating that these programs work the way you want them to?”

“I think it’s hard to measure success with this, especially when we’re still in the worst three states,” Amjad said. “As of now, I don’t see anything to indicate it’s working or not working.”

Next before the committee were Shevonna Lusk, Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Health Facilities (OHF) and Dr. Colleen Lillard, Clinical Director of Statewide Forensics, who provided similar insight. of the operational competence of the OHF.

“From 2014 to 2022, we had an increase – essentially 66% – in the number of forensic patients”, Lusk advised the committee. “Forensic placement, (over the same period) we have had an increase in community placement. That’s exactly what we want to see: a 31% increase.”

“I will give a brief overview of some of our successes and some of our weaknesses,” Lillard said, before reminding the committee that SB 702 – enacted in 2021 – “modernized West Virginia’s medico-legal laws.”

“I think the biggest success for us has been the creation and implementation of the Dangerousness Assessment Advisory Board,” notes Lillard. “We have had one court referral to date.”

Lillard cited staffing issues as the department’s main weakness right now.

Tuesday’s final presenter was Mark Drennan, executive director of the W.Va. Behavioral Healthcare Providers Association (WVBHPA), to testify on medical licensing.

“What we are talking about is the involuntary commitment process,” began Drennan. “Our (WVBHPA) members are the guardians of the mental hygiene process.”

“There is a simple flow to the process”, Drennan explained. “A relative or someone who knows the person submits a request declaring that “this person is a danger to themselves or to others”. If the clerk accepts the request, a pick-up order is initiated.

At this point in the process, the county sheriff’s department is responsible for picking up the individual and transporting them to the designated facility for a mental hygiene evaluation.

“That’s where our people come in,” Drennen added. “If the individual is determined to be a danger, they move on to a mental hygiene hearing. If the court determines they are a danger, they are transported to a hospital where they receive treatment.

“Regarding the mental hygiene examination, what are the qualifications of an examiner?” Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, asked Drennan.

Drennan said the exams are performed by licensed practitioners with advanced medical and psychological training, before adding that “I think drug addiction is linked to about 80% of the problems we have right now.”

LOCHHRA will meet again during the next interim legislative session, scheduled for September 11.

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