West Virginia Health Right program aims to keep kids out of foster care

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “A safety net” is what’s being offered to new and expecting mothers dealing with substance use disorders through the expanding HOPE program based at West Virginia Health Right, the free clinic located in Kanawha County.

HOPE started as an idea Dr. Angie Settle, Health Right’s chief executive officer, had years ago to bring together a team to work with new parents in recovery on their continued sobriety as outpatients while also reducing the number of children in foster care in the Mountain State.

“If there’s an opportunity there to help those mothers maintain their sobriety and keep those families unified, we want to be able to do that,” Settle said.

New state opioid response grant money along with backing from The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation will keep West Virginia Health Right’s HOPE program funded for the next year at least.

There is space for 50 or more participants.

Each new mother or father will receive individual attention from a board-certified psychiatrist, family nurse practitioners, a registered nurse case manager, social workers, psychologists and peer recovery support specialists.

Missy Woody, a registered nurse, is beginning her second week as the HOPE case manager.

To start, she’s working with doctors and other health providers on potential referrals.

Many, but not all, of the participants will be administered Vivitrol, a prescription drug used to prevent alcohol and drug abuse relapses.

“It’s not just throwing medicine at them and wishing them good luck,” Woody noted. “I need to make sure that they know that we’re here and, if I can’t help them, then I’m going to find the person that can help them.”

Overall, the Health Right’s HOPE program is designed as a “medical home model” with many health services available on site in Charleston.

While parents attend their appointments, trained volunteers provide child care in a separate space at the clinic.

Dr. Angie Settle

Assistance with transportation is also available.

“We’re not just focusing on their substance use disorder. It’s not just about working on that one thing. It’s wraparound services — medical care, dental care, vision care, health education classes,” Settle said.

“If we can make an impact and help those moms stay together with their babies at that most vulnerable time and keep them on the straight and narrow and keep those babies happy and safe with mom, we want to do that.”

Information about the HOPE project is available by calling West Virginia Health Right at 304-414-5930.

“We’re kind of like that safety net for them. They may have nobody else, but they will have us,” Woody said.

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