CHARLESTON, WV (AP) — West Virginia has lifted its hiring freeze for the agency that runs the state’s foster care system and will offer bonuses for youth social service workers and other positions, Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday.
Justice also issued an executive order allowing retired Department of Health and Human Resources employees to come back to work on a limited basis while still drawing their full retirement.
Child protective services workers, worker trainees and youth social service workers will receive $5,000 if they sign onto a one-year employment contract to work in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties, Justice said.
People who sign on to work in those positions in 26 other counties can be eligible for a $2,500 bonus, if they commit to staying with the Department of Health and Human Resources for a year.
The counties are Cabell, Calhoun, Clay, Fayette, Gilmer, Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Harrison, Kanawha, Lewis, Logan, Marion, Mercer, Mineral, Mingo, Monongalia, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Preston, Roane, Summers, Taylor, Wayne and Webster.
Justice said the agency is planning to begin coordinating with high school programs, the West Virginia community and technical College system, college-level health sciences students and others to try to recruit workers.
The announcement comes after West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch said Monday he is retiring at the end of the year. Dr. Jeffrey Coben has stepped in as interim secretary. Coben is West Virginia University’s associate vice president for health affairs and the dean of WVU’s School of Public Health.
Meanwhile, DHHR is working to implement a consulting firm’s recent recommendations for how to restructure the agency.
Justice earlier this year vetoed a bill that proposed splitting West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources into two departments. The McChrystal Group of Alexandria, Virginia, was hired to review the department and concluded that the current configuration “is not an option,” but that splitting the agency would “divert time, funding, and leadership’s focus away from serving West Virginians.”
McChrystal Group was awarded a contract in June to conduct a thorough review of DHHR. The firm provided a cost estimate of $503,648 for the Department of Health and Human Resources’ organizational assessment and $578,770 to develop a strategic plan.