MONTGOMERY, W.Va. – At the beginning of his State of the State Address Wednesday evening, Gov. Jim Justice recognized KVC Heath Systems CEO Jason Hooper, who was in attendance, and announced a new plan by the nonprofit organization.
“They’re going to bring a college basically for foster kids to Montgomery,” Justice said. “A place that really needs us, needs our jobs, needs hope.”
KVC Health Systems plans to repurpose a significant portion of the West Virginia University Tech campus in Montgomery for a specialized college for youth in foster care.
WVU Tech is in the process of moving classes from Montgomery to its Beckley location. The move is scheduled to be completed in fall 2017.
Tommy Bailey, a Spilman Thomas and Battle lobbyist representing Kansas-based KVC Health Systems, said this institution will provide foster children with the opportunity to learn new skills during their transition to adulthood.
“What we know is when they emerge and just go on, often it’s with significant life challenges that don’t produce great outcomes,” Bailey said. “Their unemployment rate, their homeless rate, their early pregnancy rates. Those things are all much higher than the national average, and we want to bend that curve.”
KVC Health Systems was originally interested in purchasing the Sugar Grove Station naval base in Pendelton County, but the property was sold last December to Sugar Grove, LLC. The 123-acre site will be turned into a healthcare campus, though the developers have not committed to that idea.
Bailey said while the organization could not secure the Sugar Grove property, the problem still needed to be addressed.
“There are more children in care now, more children graduating out of foster care without a real transition,” Bailey said. “They don’t have support to go to college, even though they can all make a decision to do that.”
According to Bailey , KVC Health Systems is hoping on making the campus a permanent location, and is discussing a deal with WVU Tech.
“We’ll make every effort to preserve employment there for those who wish to stay on campus,” Bailey said. “We will have a variety of needs and create employment opportunities just by virtue of being there.”
Bailey also said KVC Health Systems is talking to YMCA and BridgeValley Community and Technical College regarding how parts of the campus can be utilized for other uses.