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West Virginia Children's Welfare Group Promoting Prevention Policies

PHOTO: Shyne Brown of Doddridge County says both of his daughters have used services provided by the state Family Resource Network. He says West Virginia should provide a steady funding stream for the programs. Photo by Dan Heyman.
PHOTO: Shyne Brown of Doddridge County says both of his daughters have used services provided by the state Family Resource Network. He says West Virginia should provide a steady funding stream for the programs. Photo by Dan Heyman.
December 16, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The agenda for the Our Children Our Future initiative in the upcoming West Virginia legislative session is heavy on prevention, in part because experts say prevention works in ensuring stable, long-term heath for children.

Part of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, backers of the Our Children Our Future plan issued their 2015 platform on Monday. The top two agenda items include providing steady funding for family support networks, and investing in early-childhood health care.

Dr. Art Rubin, a Charleston pediatrician, serves on the governor's early-childhood planning task force. Beginning with good prenatal care, he says investing in a child's first 1,000 days may "cost money up front," but long-term pays off some seven times over.

"A healthier citizenship in West Virginia is a more productive workforce," says Rubin. "By investing in these programs now, we think we can save money. It's always more expensive to treat the problem later on."

On several occasions in recent years, funding has been threatened for parent and child support programs like family resource centers and in-home parental training and coaching. Last year, much of that funding was restored at the last minute.

Shayne Brown, a Doddridge County EMT and father of two, previously used those services, and says it makes more sense to provide a secure funding stream to keep them afloat. He says the programs bring in 10 times as much private and federal funds as they cost, and the programs genuinely help, especially in rural areas where a sizable portion of the population depends on the services.

"It's a big deal. The staff works hard," says Brown. "There's only three or four of them, but they're all passionate about what they do. These people have made a difference in my life."

According to Dr. Rubin, the state does a number of preventive tasks well - although he says it needs to do a better job of gathering data and using it to expand successful programs.

"We don't have to reinvent the wheel being able to expand a working program into areas that haven't been as accessible to people," says Rubin. "Not to start with new bureaucracies, but to try to work within the framework that we have."

The coalition says it has had 14 bipartisan legislative victories in the past two years.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV