The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is on the offensive now, hoping to offset mounting criticism with a more positive spin on the department's accomplishments.
The glossy infographic from the Department of Health and Human Services declares: $6 million saved; $23 million saved; $1 million saved. The document will look familiar to anyone used to getting political campaign flyers in the mail, which makes sense, since the department's new director of communications is former McCrory campaign operative, Ricky Diaz.
He says it's about, "creating a culture of better customer service and making sure all of the messages coming from the Department are easy to understand and accurate."
Albeit with a positive spin.
There's no mention in the graphic of sizeable shortfalls in Medicaid, which the department blames on previous leaders.
Under the heading "using resources more efficiently" the graphic claims Health and Human Services payroll has been reduced by $23 million in the last year. Included in that number – though not mentioned in the graphic – are numerous high-paying positions the department has created and salary bumps it has given to new hires like Diaz, a 24-year-old, whose $85,000 has come under fire.
That payroll savings figure does not include "personal services contracts" with people brought in as "senior advisers" to HHS Secretary Aldona Wos. One such contract paid more than $225,000 in just six months to a man who came on board from a company run by wos' husband.
Diaz says, "with such large challenges at the department, we have had to bring in experts."
He credits those experts with some of the success touted on the infographic.
For example, the department created a $175,000 chief of information technology position that, Diaz says, helped launch a new bill-paying system for doctors and clinics who treat Medicaid patients. The system launched in July and, according to the infographic, has already saved $6 million. It has also drawn widespread complaints from providers about late payments and poor customer service. That's not mentioned in the graphic, of course.
All of the above has led to significant public scrutiny and prompted Secretary Wos to email lawmakers last week defending her work at the department. The "Top Accomplishments at DHHS" infographic looks to be round two of this public relations campaign.