Effects of opioid epidemic on children discussed at conference

By COURTNEY HESSLER, The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Leaders of the recovery community gathered in Huntington for a conference to discuss how substance use disorder causes multigenerational trauma, especially among young people of West Virginia.

Healthy Connections, an initiative of Marshall Health’s Addiction Medicine Services, was joined Thursday by parents from the West Virginia Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Coalition, community members and professionals from Marshall University Medical Center to put highlight evidence-based solutions to substance use and trauma.

Dubbed “The Kids Are Not Well: A Call to Action,” the event was staged to highlight the mental and physical effects the opioid epidemic is having on the next generation.

Discussions highlighted research by Dr. Todd Davies, Associate Director of Research and Development in the Division of Addiction Sciences at the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, showing that children in the area experience trauma at a rate higher than previously believed, which leads to a higher risk that this person will have medical problems in adulthood.

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Dr. Lyn O’Connell, associate director of the Addiction Sciences Division, said that while the recovery community doesn’t like to portray things in a negative light, the event acted as a call to action. stock.

“The children are not well, but we have the resources, we have the capacity, we have the skills, we have the experts, we have the families, we have the recovering people and we can do a lot,” he said. she declared. said. “But we all have to do it together, and we have to do it as we go.”

A person who has had four or more negative or traumatic experiences is twice as likely to suffer from health complications and stress, which could manifest themselves in factors such as drug use, heart disease, suicide and mental disorder. post-traumatic stress.

The ACE score test was created to determine a person’s risk factor by counting the number of negative childhood traumas – such as abuse and neglect – that the person experienced. The higher the score, the more the person is at risk of developing health problems.

A 2015 report released by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources stated that there was an average of 1.4 ACE scores reported among West Virginia adults, meaning they have had at least one adverse experience during their childhood. Of those tested, 13.8% had four or more.

Davies said his research shows the numbers are at a much more alarming level, although he is able to interpret the numbers from just three adverse childhood experiences so far.

“Here locally, among children born since 2013, we have data that at least 43.1% have an ACE score of 2 or higher. Almost 10% score 3 or more,” he said, noting that about 83% score at least one adverse childhood experience.

Davies said the numbers don’t necessarily show an explosion of negative childhood experiences, but they do give a more accurate picture of an area that hadn’t been well measured before because it’s hard to track.

A coalition of clinical providers in the area – including Marshall Health, Valley Health, Mountain Health Network and Recovery Point – have created a data system called the West Virginia Community Addiction Data System, where they can identify the level of negative addiction experiences. childhood in the community.

The data is not used to track individuals, but rather to determine populations at risk to identify maintenance points so that resources can be more appropriately allocated to address the crisis. The key is to engage with children before they enter school, by which time the trauma has already happened.

Having the data under local control enables the recovery community to not only act faster, but also to have a more accurate impact, which is essential for early intervention and setting a child up for success, a he declared.

“Just like when we first tackled the addiction epidemic, what we’re doing with the data system and the research that I’m doing is we’re in control of our own data and our own message,” said Davies.

Healthy Connections Director Jennifer Mills Price said the goal of Healthy Connections, a coalition of 20 community organizations, is that every infant and toddler raised in families with substance use disorder substances has the opportunity to build a healthy brain through healthy relationships with caregivers and family members.

To do this, the bonds with their family are of the utmost importance for the development of a child.

West Virginia has approximately 7,000 children living in foster care. The state has a rate of withdrawals from a household three times the national average, 85% of which were for drug use, Mills Price said.

Discussing the extent of the opioid crisis in the community, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said the extent of the problem is not what is seen today.

“If there was never, ever another opioid pill distributed or if there was never, ever another gram of heroin or fentanyl being trafficked and everything it stopped right now, we would still be dealing with the results of that for the next five decades,” he said.

Mills Price said being free from addiction is just one aspect of recovery.

“That healing is possible and childhood traumas can come back, so treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution,” she said. “We really want to help people in recovery get back into their communities and be part of those conversations.”

Thanks to lawsuits filed against pharmaceutical companies, regional partners have crafted a 30-year, $2.6 billion plan that would reduce the opioid crisis in Cabell County, but the funding to fully implement it is lacking. . Williams said the only way to find a way out is for the community to come together.

More information about the organization can be found online at healthyconnectionswv.org.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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