Charleston – Many state political observers have predicted “open warfare” between Republican Governor Jim Justice and the supermajority GOP legislature over the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
Much of legislative leadership have been critical of DHHR’s purported slow response to issues for which it is responsible.
A majority of Republican legislators have expressed support for dividing DHHR into at least two agencies. That’s a proposal that is not supported by Justice.
With the 2023 regular legislative session just a month away (in January), one GOP State Senate leader may have fired the first verbal “shots” in the “war.”
In a sternly-written December 8 letter to DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch, Morgan County State Senator Charles Trump stated facts and issued questions as a follow-up to a meeting held Tuesday.
Trump is Chair of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee and formerly served as House Minority Leader when Republicans were outnumbered.
At the outset of the three-page letter, Trump makes it clear he has asked questions of DHHR official Cassie Chapman and not yet received answers. His primary focus is on the handling of child abuse and neglect cases.
Trump said he has managed to learn some of the statistics he requested from other official sources.
The Morgan Senator describes the situation “here in the Eastern panhandle is dire.”
While noting that lack of DHHR manpower and other factors inherent in the system limit court cases, he says 16 families in Morgan have had child cases instituted in 2022. He notes that there is no employee responsible for those cases. They are instead handled by Grant County, 75 miles and nearly two hours away.
Trump says the three-county area of Morgan, Brooke and Berkeley constitute a region of 200,000 people served by the lowest number of workers of any region.
Despite Chapman’s assurances that Morgan County is being adequately handled by the Grant DHHR Office “it is not working,” Trump writes.
Many court cases in the region are initiated by law enforcement or school officials because DHHR lacks sufficient manpower to investigate. These often involve cases where a child’s safety is in “imminent danger.”
Berkeley County, Trump writes, has 234 active open juvenile abuse and neglect cases. In at least one, he said, DHHR was ordered to investigate claims made to the court.
Jefferson County had 32 families involved in open family court cases.
After citing the statistics, Trump closed by asking Crouch to respond “with specific strategies and plans to address the problems” by December 8.
The following is a copy of the letter sent by Trump. This is a developing story that will be updated as events warrant.