Addiction has taken too many of our community members from us. We will build a family-supportive care network that provides the tools and support that families need to successfully enter and remain in recovery so they can raise their children in a supportive and healthy environment.


Exposure to opiates and other substances places children at risk for poor academic, social, and medical outcomes. The Coalition will provide assessment of need for children affected and plans for effective intervention to curb the negative impacts of exposure during pregnancy. In addition, community-wide supportive prevention efforts will encourage resilience in children whose families are struggling with the effects of addiction.


Our people are our strongest asset because we are West Virginia Strong. Healthy Connections will empower those in recovery to become a formal part of the prevention and treatment network in the Huntington area.


The Coalition will take a leadership role in providing needed information and assistance to community members and agencies about the process of addiction and recovery. The focus will be on understanding the sadly inclusive nature of this devastating epidemic to reduce the stigma and blame that those affected often feel that can prevent them from coming forward for help.


Our community has many strong, solid supportive networks that currently lack the infrastructure to collaborate effectively. Healthy Connections will build that infrastructure for collaboration.


The prevention and intervention approaches offered by Healthy Connections partners represent the state of the art interventions for addiction recovery and the establishment of strong family and community foundations.


By using the Coalition as a mechanism for training, we are ensuring that tomorrow’s health care leaders take steps to reduce the spread of addiction and provide the most effective, family-focused interventions available to prevent relapse and support successful recovery.


Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. ~Nelson Mandela

Healthy Connections’ strategic plan includes a strong three-fold focus on education. First, mothers who struggle with opiate addiction are educated about addiction, treatment rationale, local resources and the effects of drug exposure on their children. They are also educated about treatment options and interventions that may alleviate the adverse results of drug addiction. Second, the community and professionals will be educated about the biopsychosocial aspects of addiction and treatment related to Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), the long term effects of drug exposure, and the resulting challenges in the development of a secure attachment with caregivers. Third, Healthy Connections is committed to researching all aspects of this complex problem. Both the research process and resulting outcomes will educate students and scholars, develop local specialized providers, establish Healthy Connections and Marshall as a center of excellence in the treatment of this substance abuse, ensure the highest quality of treatment, and provide guidance to other communities who may struggle with similar concerns.

The Healthy Connections Coalition will engage Marshall students, from a variety of disciplines. They will be provided hands-on training opportunities to learn from professionals and experts in the field while engaging first-hand with struggling families. This approach will have a twofold benefit: one, students will become invested in the community, which will reduce the stigma associated with substance abuse as they build empathy by working with these families; second two, this approach will reduce the mental health professional shortage as students will be trained as the next group of experts on best-practices, innovative research, and community collaboration.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. ~ Benjamin Franklin



Case Navigators: A common barrier to seeking treatment services is the inability to navigate the complex system. Healthy Connections proposes the development of case navigators, who will help guide families through the entire spectrum of services and resources, especially at times of transition from birth to kindergarten. They will also provide comprehensive assessments to identify the services that are most needed, coordinate those services, and provide information to agencies to help them make determination of safety of the infant.

Peer Recovery Coaches: Healthy Connections will also integrate certified Peer Recovery Coaches who are in long-term recovery and are trained to provide supportive services from a first-hand perspective, throughout the program. They will be trained in infant and early childhood development and remain an integral part of the treatment team throughout the course of the mother’s recovery.


One in five babies born in Cabell Huntington Hospital (CHH) have been prenatally exposed to drugs. The Neonatal Therapeutic Unit in CHH and Lily’s Place are uniquely equipped to provide the best and most innovative care to these newborns. Babies receive treatment in a quiet environment with therapeutic handling, with a volume driven feeding protocol, medicine to manage withdrawal symptoms if necessary, and general medical care. Families are educated about the needs of their infant and available transition services.


Medication assisted treatment (MAT) programs have been established as best practice for the treatment of opiate addition by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). All participating MAT programs in the Healthy Connections coalition are committed to ASAM and SAMSHA best practice guidelines and adhere to requirements of the West Virginia Office of Health Facility Licensure & Certification. MAT includes medication management, group and individual therapy, education, and peer support groups. Psychosocial treatment focuses on helping mothers understand, learn, and practice living a drug free life by improving emotion regulation, decision making skills, and the ability to engage in healthy goal directed behavior.​


Through a partnership with River Valley Child Development Services, Healthy Connections proposes to establish birth-to-two child-care services for infants with neonatal exposure. Staff will maintain best-practices to improve the development of these infants, integrate Marshall students into training and research programs, and then disseminate best-practices and research outcomes around the state. By housing the child care and other services in the same location, we aim to remove the transportation barrier and improve retention in the programs. This center will also be a location for the community to come together and support these families by providing a “one-stop-shop” for families and providers by reducing common barriers to treatment and improving service retention.

Services will include: Evidence based care-giver/child dyadic therapies addressing attachment, trauma, and substance abuse; Individual, Couple, and Family therapy; Recovery Groups; Community engagement services: GRE/education, legal services, vocational training, nutrition and cooking classes, exercise, gardening, support groups and skill building, organized fun social activities, education and resources related to child development.


Treating the negative effects of addiction are much harder and far costlier than providing prevention services in advance. Many groups are working to provide preventative services, and Healthy Connections is supporting collaborations between these groups to support their outreach. Prevention of neonatal exposure includes partnering with other groups within the Marshall Substance Abuse Coalition to support programs such as VLARC (long-acting birth control education and services), SBIRT screening services for providers, and drug-education throughout the school system.