Justice announces leadership of newly-created departments of Health, Human Services, and Heath Facilities

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The State Legislature’s recent efforts to split the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) into three separate entities clocked measurable progress on Wednesday, as Gov. Jim Justice announced the names of the individuals selected to head those entities. 

“We are announcing three new cabinet-appointments to the new departments of my administration, created by the split of the DHHR,” Justice said, during Wednesday’s media-briefing. The New departments include West Virginia’s Departments of Health, Human Services, and Health Facilities.

“I’ve said it 15,000 times, but I welcome – and I have always welcomed – any way that we can possibly put something together to get better,” Justice continued. “I truly think we’re on a pathway to make things significantly better at DHHR.”

Dr. Sherri A. Young.

Justice announced that current Associate Chief Medical Officer of the Vandalia Health Network and former Executive Director and Health Officer of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Dr. Sherri A. Young will serve as the state’s inaugural Secretary of the Department of Health. Dr. Cynthia Persily,  vice-chancellor of Health Sciences at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, was named as West Virginia’s first Secretary of the Department of Human Services. 

Dr. Cynthia Persily.

The final Cabinet position, that of Secretary of the Department of Health Facilities, will be filled by Michael Caruso. Caruso is a healthcare consultant, currently working with Wheeling’s Orchard Park Hospital. 

Michael Caruso.

According to DHHR Interim Secretary Dr. Jeffery Coben, he – along with Dr. Clay Marsh and Retired Major General James Hoyer – will continue to serve in an advisory-capacity throughout the transition period.

Dr. Jeffrey Coben.

“I believe that we have some very strong, positive momentum at DHHR,” Coben said. “I’m very proud of the things that we’ve been able to accomplish over these past several months.”

Coben assumed leadership of the DHHR from former Secretary Bill Crouch. Crouch resigned from the position on Dec. 12 amidst elevated scrutiny of the department. 

At the conclusion of Coben’s remarks, Justice – as well as Young, Persily, and Caruso – praised him for the job he’s done while at the helm of the DHHR. 

“I think it’s incredible what’s been accomplished,” Justice said. “Doc (Coben), you’re very humble by saying, ‘It’s not me, it’s everybody else.’ But surely you’re a big part of it too, so we thank you.”  

The DHHR’s official transition into the Departments of Health, Human Services, and Health Facilities will take effect on Jan. 1, 2024. Secretaries Young, Persily, and Caruso will work with their respective staffs for the remainder of the year in preparation of the effective date. 

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