Earlier this year WV DHHR Cabinet Secretary, Bill J. Crouch, described West Virginia as being in the midst of a “child welfare crisis and the prevalence of NAS [neonatal abstinence syndrome] is at the forefront of our issues.” The WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities  (WVUCED) is seeing the impact that NAS has on developmental outcomes of children and has received funding to target barriers and address health concerns for children, their parents and their families.

The WVUCED is partnering with the West Virginia Office of Maternal, Child, and Family Health, the maternal and infant risk surveillance system, Project W.A.T.C.H. and the West Virginia Home Visitation Program. This collaborative has developed the Appalachian Rural Health Integration Model (ARHIM) which will work to continue strengthening the existing infrastructure for children with special needs and their families.

“This initiative is designed to coordinate individual agency efforts into a common and stronger network that will continue to serve the state, serve groups of children and their families who lack access to services, and efficiently provide resources without duplicating effort or costs,” said Dr. Lesley Cottrell, WVU CED Director.                     

The newly funded project will expand the home visitation infrastructure in six northern West Virginia counties that have some of the greatest incidence rates of NAS among infants. Expanded programming will address parental depression, service coordination with substance use providers within the region, social service patient navigation, and the availability of education, employment, and development specialists.

“Home visiting programs in WV are serving more families impacted by substance use and demonstrating higher needs than ever. The opportunity to better meet the needs of families through expanded services and stronger resource efforts for families will have significant long-term impact on our State. We look forward to the partnership with WVUCED and Project WATCH,” said Jackie Newson, Director of the West Virginia Home Visitation Program.

The WVUCED received $3,000,000 to implement these services within a five year period. This funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Maternal and Child Health Bureau.