The Times West Virginian

Breaking News

West Virginia

May 23, 2013

Former hospital executive, nurse to become state DHHR secretary

CHARLESTON — Former hospital executive and nurse Karen Bowling will become West Virginia’s Health and Human Resources secretary on July 1, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Wednesday, taking over a sprawling department recently scrutinized by an audit and assigned the daunting task of expanding the state’s Medicaid program.

The Wyoming County native will succeed acting Secretary Rocco Fucillo, a department veteran who stepped in when poor health forced Michael Lewis to retire in June 2012. Fucillo’s brief tenure was marked by a lawsuit from two top department officials who allege they were disciplined for raising concerns about an advertising contract. One of those officials has since been fired, along with a third department deputy involved in the contract dispute.

Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin said Fucillo will help Bowling take the reins over the next several weeks.

“I know that Karen Bowling will want to tap into Rocco’s great knowledge and talent,” Goodwin said Wednesday.

Pledging to aid Bowling’s transition, Fucillo said in a statement that he “will also consider my family’s and my best interests as I look at future opportunities.”

To aid the search for a permanent secretary, the Legislature agreed last month to nearly double its annual salary from $95,000 to $175,000. Goodwin said the governor’s office interviewed several candidates for the job, not all of them West Virginians.

Bowling has an associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing, with the graduate degree also in primary health care, according to information provided by Tomblin’s office. The 55-year-old earned both that and her bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University, and the governor’s office said she was first in her family to graduate from college. She has been pursuing a doctoral degree with Capella University, a for-profit distance learning institution that offers online coursework.

Bowling was chief executive of Raleigh General Hospital, part of the LifePoint Hospitals network, from 2002 until late 2010. She chaired the West Virginia Hospital Association toward the end of her time as CEO, and held other leadership roles in that trade group.

More recently, Bowling served as health sciences dean at Mountain State University. Named to that post in February 2011, Bowling has since helped the University of Charleston absorb the Beckley campus and its health programs after Mountain State lost its accreditation and closed in January.

Tomblin cited in Thursday’s announcement how Bowling has volunteered as a family nurse practitioner at the West Virginia Health Right clinic.

“Karen’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of her community has been evident throughout her career and her community involvement,” the governor said.

With a nearly $4 billion annual budget and more than 5,700 full-time employees, Health and Human Resources oversees an array of services including foster care, infectious disease prevention, child support enforcement and anti-smoking efforts. The department’s biggest program is Medicaid, which provides health care to more than 307,000 West Virginians. Tomblin recently agreed to heed provisions of the federal health care law and expand coverage to more low-income residents starting next year. The move is expected to increase Medicaid’s rolls by more than 91,500 people.

The governor also commissioned an audit that found West Virginia with some of the worst health outcomes among the states, even though it ranks fourth for public health care funding per person. Urging an overhaul of the department and health services generally, that study recommended 78 ways to revamp Health and Human Resources at a potential savings of nearly $284 million over five years.

Finding some agencies overburdened and others underused, the audit called for reorganizing most into two divisions each led by a deputy secretary while shutting down or combining several others. Released earlier this month, the report also details how high turnover, hundreds of unfilled jobs and rising overtime costs combine to hamper the department’s efforts.

Compared to a national average of 3.3 percent, department turnover is 30 percent, the audit said. With a cumbersome, months-long process for filling jobs, more than 600 positions remain vacant at any given time. Overtime spending grew from $5.2 million in 2010 to $7.1 million last year.

Text Only
West Virginia
  • Energy-state Dems split from Obama

    Scrapping to keep a West Virginia Senate seat Democratic in a state that’s sprinted to the right, Natalie Tennant is counting on her allegiance to the coal industry to separate herself from an unpopular President Barack Obama.
    Her approach reflects common Democratic strategy and tactics this midterm election year in energy-producing states that lean Republican: Sen. Mary Landrieu is vying for a fourth term representing Louisiana; Alaska Sen. Mark Begich is running for re-election for the first time; and Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes wants to replace Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

    April 17, 2014

  • Official: $2M in chemical spill costs reimbursable

    Public agencies and nonprofits that helped after a Jan. 9 chemical leak into the water supply could receive $2 million in reimbursements for their emergency work, a West Virginia homeland security official said.
    Federal and state emergency officials briefed fire departments, paramedics and other government groups Wednesday on how to recoup costs.

    April 17, 2014

  • Manchin urges mines to speak out for coal

    The Democratic senator leading the battle against the White House’s strategy to fight climate change urged the mining industry on Tuesday to speak out about coal’s role in providing affordable, reliable electricity to the country to help combat strict new emissions rules for coal-fired power plants.

    April 16, 2014

  • Many schools already meet new mandate for breakfast

    Many West Virginia public schools have changed the way they serve breakfast to students ahead of a requirement that goes into effect in September.

    April 14, 2014

  • W.Va. grower promotes unmodified feed corn

    Lyle Tabb is hoping that his non-genetically modified corn will take off with farmers who can charge top dollar for “all natural” eggs.
    Genetically modified or GMO corn has greatly simplified the process of getting rid of weeds, but has also substantially increased the amount of a chemical call glyphosate.

    April 13, 2014

  • Geologists link small quakes to fracking

    Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest.
    A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, found the injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link “probable.”

    April 12, 2014

  • Phares looks forward to retirement

    James Phares looked forward to the challenge and opportunity to help make a difference in a state education system under fire when he was hired in late 2012 as West Virginia’s schools superintendent.
    After 18 months, Phares will be stepping down on June 30 — which he said was set long ago as the day at age 61 that he’d walk with his wife into retirement.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teacher planning, abortion ban among W.Va. vetoes

    Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed about 200 bills and nixed eight this year, leaving teachers and abortion opponents unsatisfied.

    April 7, 2014

  • Spill company president ‘bears no fault’

    The president of Freedom Industries “bears no fault” for a West Virginia chemical spill that spurred a water-use ban for up to 10 days for 300,000 people, his lawyer says in a court filing.
    On Friday, Freedom President Gary Southern withdrew his application to get paid for work he already did during the company’s bankruptcy proceedings. He also wanted Freedom and its insurance to cover his legal fees related to the Jan. 9 spill.

    April 5, 2014

  • Agencies to ask West Virginia residents about chemical spill

    Health agencies are making thousands of phone calls and going door-to-door to ask West Virginians how a January chemical spill affected them.
    The state Bureau for Public Health announced Thursday that volunteers will survey randomly selected households in nine counties about health concerns from the spill.

    April 5, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads