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West Virginia's iconic gold Capitol dome in Charleston is pictured.

CHARLESTON - The House Health and Human Resources Committee passed a bill Tuesday that would allow the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources to increase the salary schedules for workers within the department.

The bill, which originated in the committee, would allow the secretary to increase salaries to a market rate for those workers who are considered essential to protecting the health and welfare of state residents, committee counsel Charles Roskovensky said.

DHHR Secretary Bill Crouch testified about the difficulty the state has in recruiting and keeping certain employees, including child protective workers, social workers and nurses at state hospitals.

Crouch said the state's number of CPS workers has stayed at approximately 430 while the number of children in foster care increased from about 4,300 in 2014 to 7,200 last year.

Crouch said high caseloads and the difficulty of the job contribute to problems retaining CPS workers.

"It's an easy job to burn out on," he said.

Crouch said between last year and the proposed budget for this year, the department plans to give CPS workers a 15 percent raise over two years.

"I kind of thought at the time it would get us where we need to be," Crouch said. "I just don't think it's enough."

The committee voted that the bill go to the floor of the House for consideration by the entire House of Delegates.

Also on Tuesday, the House Health Committee passed House Bill 2947, which would permit a telemedicine physician prescription for a schedule 2 medication in a hospital setting. The bill will go to the Judiciary committee.

The committee also passed House Bill 2100, which would require the Department of Education to establish a pilot program to provide mental and behavioral health services as an alternative to suspending students for disruptive behaviors. The bill will next go to the Education committee.

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