West Virginia’s deputy health and human resources secretary, who abruptly parted ways with the agency, Monday described pervasive challenges and differences of opinion with Secretary Bill Crouch about how to deal with them.
“Unfortunately, Secretary Crouch and I have not shared the same views on what the problems are, how to handle them, or the urgency of achieving results, but I respect this parting of ways and pray for the state’s success in solving these issues,” Jeremiah Samples, former deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources, said in a statement released Monday.
Samples, a longtime agency employee, departed DHHR Friday. DHHR would only confirm that he left.
Crouch, during a news briefing Monday, described the situation as a personnel matter.
“This is a personnel issue, and we’re not going to get into the details of this,” Crouch said. “But as the governor says often, we all have to pull the rope in the same direction. This is a large agency. We have to have everybody on board in terms of what we’re doing.”
Gov. Jim Justice also said he wouldn’t discuss the details of Samples’ departure.
Samples was well-respected and often praised at the state Legislature for his insight about policy and knowledge of the agency’s budget.
DHHR was among several hot-button issues during this past legislative session. A bill Justice wound up vetoing would have split the agency into two, the Department of Health and the Department of Human Resources. Lawmakers from both parties said a split would make the budget and duties of the agency easier to handle.
Another bill focused on foster care would have established a front-facing dashboard meant to provide more information about how to help the vulnerable children in the system, but lawmakers failed to complete its passage.
And leaders in the state Senate asked for an audit of the agency, expressing concern over many of the long-term problems with finances, information technology issues, staffing shortages, the status of foster children sent out of state for care and more.
Samples, in his statement, alluded to many of those issues.
“Despite having an allocated budget of $7.5 billion, tireless dedication by wonderful staff and commissioners, and an expectation for success from the governor, DHHR has struggled to make, and even lost, progress in many critical areas,” Samples stated.
“Child welfare, substance use disorder, protection of the vulnerable, management of state health facilities, EMS and provider capacity, supporting client transition from public assistance to the workforce, contract management, and many more DHHR responsibilities have simply not met anyone’s expectation, especially my own.
“While the answers to these problems are complex, solutions must be found. As a society, we can never forget that every statistic is a real person. We must do better.”
He continued, “For every child protected from harm and family supported, I am far more cognizant, even haunted, by those that have not been saved or that will go unsaved tomorrow. I cannot properly articulate the level of responsibility I personally feel for those suffering and struggling that I have not been able to help.”
Lawmakers, including House Majority Amy Summers, R-Taylor, publicly agreed with that assessment. Delegate Kayla Young, a Democrat from Kanawha County, concurred.
Delegate Dianna Graves, R-Kanawha, also praised Samples for his knowledge and insight.
“What’s happening to Jeremiah is an example of the dysfunction within DHHR. When DHHR has an employee who works tirelessly, is brilliant and dedicated, could go elsewhere and make so much more… and yet is fired for what amounts to a technicality, there is quite obviously a serious problem in leadership that needs to be addressed,” Graves said Monday.
Graves said the governor is well aware of issues that must be addressed at DHHR and wants to solve them.