HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — First Lady Melania Trump made her first official trip to West Virginia when she visited Huntington Tuesday to tour Lily’s Place, a facility opened in 2014 to provide short-term medical care to babies born addicted to drugs.
FLOTUS just toured Lily’s Place to meet & speak w families affected by opioid abuse. Amazing group providing support to babies born addicted pic.twitter.com/luOSXDaIOn
— Stephanie Grisham (@StephGrisham45) October 10, 2017
Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Donald Trump, was traveling with the First Lady.
Lily’s Place hosted a small group discussion before the tour with employees and families of babies suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). The facility specializes in short-term treatment for babies with NAS due to exposure in the womb to opioids and other drugs and withdrawal from drug exposure.
During the discussion, the First Lady said she wants to do all she can to educate families about the dangers of drug addiction.
“We need to open the conversation and teach children and young mothers how it’s dangerous to use drugs and to get addicted to it,” she said.
In September, Mrs. Trump met with Rebecca Crowder, Lily’s Place executive director, and others during a White House event.
The First Lady applauded Lily’s Place for their work during Tuesday’s visit. She said she hopes similar services will expand nationwide.
“Thank you for all that you do — really an incredible job,” she said. “I just hope we give a voice to more places like this and open them more around the country so we could have more families, more mothers and more children.”
All babies at Lily’s Place receive individualized care and are allowed to heal in their own rooms using therapeutic handling techniques which Mrs. Trump saw during her Tuesday visit.
“She came to the back where the babies are and was able to go into the rooms where the parents were and held that baby and talked with the parents,” said Rhonda Edmonds, nursing director at Lily’s Place.
Edmonds said the First Lady showed a lot of interest in their work.
“She wants to be a voice for these babies to try to really bring awareness to this issue,” she said. “She was very connected and you could tell that she really has a heart for this and that she really cares.”
Since opening nearly 200 babies have been treated there, according to Edmunds.
“I feel like every baby that goes through our program — that is a success story. We have helped them to be as comfortable as they can be through this painful withdrawal process,” she told MetroNews at that time.
West Virginia 3rd District Congressman Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) helped found Lily’s Place.
“I was honored to welcome First Lady Melania Trump to my hometown of Huntington and thank her for visiting Lily’s Place to learn more about caring for babies born drug exposed. I helped to start Lily’s Place more than three years ago to provide specialized care for newborns exposed to heroin and other opioids,” Jenkins said in a statement.
Jenkins and State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey both welcomed the First Lady to West Virginia.
— Rep. Evan Jenkins (@RepEvanJenkins) October 10, 2017
— AG Patrick Morrisey (@MorriseyWV) October 10, 2017
Governor Jim Justice also thanked the First Lady for visiting the Mountain State.
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) October 10, 2017
Last week, Jenkins and U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) announced the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on neonatal abstinence syndrome — the first federal study of its kind to examine best practices and approaches to treating newborns exposed to drugs in the womb.
Capito said in a statement she was thrilled the First Lady was able to see firsthand the work being done at Lily’s Place.
“Not only does her visit signal a real commitment to making the opioid crisis a national priority, but it is also a testament to how our state is leading the way to combat the drug epidemic,” Capito said.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) also released a statement on the First Lady’s visit.
“I’m pleased the First Lady has come to West Virginia to bring national attention to the front-line of the opioid epidemic and to learn first-hand about the impacts the opioid epidemic is having on children in Huntington and across our state,” Manchin said. “The work Lily’s Place does is crucial to helping our communities and families overcome opioid addiction and I will continue to support the work they do.”
Both Manchin and Capito applauded the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ decision Tuesday to expand Medicaid coverage for substance abuse treatment, including inpatient treatment at large residential facilities in West Virginia.
According to the CMS Section 1115 waiver, West Virginia will now cover methadone and naloxone through Medicaid. Detoxification, withdrawal management, medically-assisted therapy and peer-recovery support will also be more readily available.
“States need flexibility to customize their Medicaid programs, and, in West Virginia’s case, we need to direct resources to address our state’s deadly opioid epidemic. Thanks to CMS Administrator Verma for heeding my calls and working with me to approve West Virginia’s request for this waiver. With it, those who are suffering from addiction will now have access to expanded services,” Capito said in a statement.
Manchin said issued a statement saying an important part of ending the opioid epidemic is making sure that people struggling with opioid abuse have access to substance abuse treatment.
“This change has bipartisan support and that is why I was pleased to join my colleagues in May in introducing the Medicaid Coverage for Addiction Recovery Expansion Act, which would make this change legislatively. We need a long term treatment solution and this change will be a part of that,” Manchin said.