Healthcare, Latest News, State Government, West Virginia Legislature

Ayne Amjad to step down as Public Health commissioner, continue serving on contract basis

MORGANTOWN – Public Health Commissioner Ayne Amjad will take on an altered role in Gov. Jim Justice’s COVID leadership team. Justice, Amjad and Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch talked about the new role during Tuesday’s briefing.

Also on Tuesday’s topic list were a new Children’s Crisis Center to be built in Elkins, some omicron booster news and some thumping on legislative paralysis on taxes and abortion law.

Justice said Amjad will step down as a state employee but will serve on a contract basis as Justice’s senior advisor to the state health officer and Public Health commissioner. She will continue to participate in the twice-weekly briefings.

“Dr. Amjad came and stepped up at a time when we really needed somebody,” he said. He described her as smart and kind and good. “We’ve got to step back and thank her for her incredible service.”

Crouch said Amjad will continue to function as the state health officer until a permanent replacement is named.

Amjad said of her service, “It’s probably been the highlight of my career.” But she wants to return to her clinical practice. “I do miss seeing my patients.”

On the topic of the Children’s Crisis Center, Justice said it will be built on the site of the current West Virginia Children’s Home, which is doing good work but doesn’t function as a crisis center. “We want to really move this to another level.”

Crouch said an RFP for construction will be issued soon.

People in the 9-21 age group who are removed from their homes for a behavioral health crisis are currently sent to ERs or hotels – stays that have lasted days or weeks in some instances.

At the center, the children will be evaluated, stabilized and referred to appropriate care, he said. The center will provide triage, assessment, nursing and psychiatric intervention, peer support and a discharge plan. It will have private patient rooms and stays will be up to 14 days.

Jn COVID news, Joint Interagency Task Force Director Gen. James Hoyer said following FDA and CDC approval, the new omicron-specific booster will be available for anyone age 12 and up who’s had their primary set of vaccines or vaccines plus prior boosters.

Residents can check their eligibility status for the new boosters at, he said. Hospital numbers are dipping downward, standing at 297 on Tuesday. “Getting that booster shot is going to be exceptionally important to all.”

On Friday, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw announced that he will call members back into special session on Sept. 12 to resume work on the abortion law bill, HB 302. He noted that the House had called for a conference committee on the bill just before the sudden temporary adjournment on July 29, and the Senate never officially received the message.

Later that day, Senate President Craig Blair expressed surprise at Hanshaw’s action (although they had both been in the same room at the same table at The Greenbrier that day for a state Chamber of Commerce panel on Amendment 2).

Blair said, “To say I was shocked is an understatement. Communication is vital to ensuring government works in an efficient and productive manner. … I will not cause further chaos and disruption to the process, or burden our taxpayers with unnecessary expenses, by calling senators back into session without a concrete plan for producing a bill that has the votes to pass both chambers.”

Justice took a couple questions on this deadlock during the briefing.

He said, “Why are we not in session and why are we not really dealing right now” with the his tax cut bill and HB 302? “Why are we not doing that? The reason we’re not doing that is we’ve got an election in November.”

Legislators shouldn’t be ducking responsibility, he said. “We’re here to do a job.”

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