UUE Local 170 members met with DHHR Deputy Secretary Harold Clifton regarding DHHR caseload standards.E Local 170 members who work for the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) are continuing to press the agency to implement the caseload standard recommendations, which were given to DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling in July 2013. Large, unmanageable caseloads mean that client services are not being delivered in a timely manner, and that children and the elderly are being put at risk.

In 2012, UE Local 170 reached an agreement with the DHHR for the agency to finally comply with West Virginia Code 9-2-6a, regarding the development of reasonable and achievable caseload standards for its program areas. Over the next year, UE Local 170, the West Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and DHHR put together workgroups - made up of DHHR employees - to develop caseload standards for five program areas: Social Workers, Case Aides, Eligibility Workers, Child Support Specialists, and Child Support Technicians.

In July, UE Local 170 members and supporters picketed outside of the Fayette County DHHR office in Oak Hill to bring public attention to the issue. Fayette County DHHR employees’ caseloads are two to three times the caseload standards that the DHHR program initiative recommends. Since the informational picketing at the Fayette County DHHR office, Nancy Exline, Commissioner of the Bureau for Children and Families (BCF), met with the employees at the Fayette County office and promised to hire more workers there in order to lower the employees' caseloads.

In October, UE Local 170 DHHR members from Fayette County and Wood County met with Harold Clifton, DHHR Deputy Secretary for Human Services, to hear what the agency plans are for implementing the recommendations. Also attending the meeting with Clifton were Monica Robinson and Julie Thomas from DHHR's Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM).

Clifton told the UE Local 170 members that DHHR has completed both phases of the caseload standard initiative (human services and health services) and will be presenting its recommendations to the Legislative Oversight Commission for Health and Human Resources Accountability (LOCHHRA) at the November Legislative Interim Meetings.

The UE members pressed Clifton throughout the meeting for concrete action on implementing the standards and hiring additional employees in order to lower the caseloads of DHHR employees. Since the completion of phase one of the initiative (human services), the caseloads of DHHR employees who work for the Bureau for Children and Families (BCF) have increased dramatically due to the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). More than 138,000 West Virginians signed up for Medicaid under the ACA.

UE Local 170 DHHR members will be mobilizing across the state to attend the LOCHHRA meeting in November to see what recommendations DHHR will be presenting to the Legislature.