Kelli Caseman, Executive Director

There’s a fresh energy to new beginnings. We still feel that energy here at Think Kids as we kick off our third year in operation. And while it hasn’t been a smooth ride— launching a nonprofit three months before a pandemic— we’ve grown. We’ve met great people and partnered along the way. We’ve assembled a great board of directors, and their encouragement and insight have kept us afloat at a critical time for West Virginia’s kids. 

Like all of us, kids have struggled through the pandemic, but their needs are specific and often go unaddressed. 

In November, the CDC reported that between April 2020 and 2021, yearly overdose deaths topped 100,000 for the first time, with some of the most significant increases in West Virginia. 

The largest age demographic of overdose deaths was between the ages of 21-25, which also overlaps with the average age of first-time parents in our state. 

Last week, nearly 200,000 U.S. children tested positive for COVID-19, a 50% since the beginning of December, according to the most recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

And perhaps the most critical issue getting little attention, the U.S. surgeon general issued a rare and stark warning about a youth mental health crisis in our country. 

And so, we’re glad to be here, doing the work that we do. There’s never been a more important time to be a kids’ health advocate. We’re starting this year with four projects. As always, there’s a large volunteer component to each. If you’d like to join in, let us know.

1. The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation has funded another year of the Responding to the Needs of Children of the Drug Crisis project. This year, the project aims to assess and document the programs and services provided in the six-county area that are specific to the needs of children affected by the drug crisis. We’ll compile and refine them into a data visualization (a radial graph), which will make it clear where gaps in programs and services are across counties and systems. We’re happy that Owomide will be coming back next year to work with us on this. Also, we’ll work with the United Way and local partners to ensure these services are listed in WV 2-1-1 database— to a greater extent, the findhelp.com database— and strategize collaboratively to centralize and market these programs/services across systems and to the public and targeted demographics.

2. The Pallottine Foundation of Huntington has funded another year of the Regional Health and Hunger Project. This project takes a critical look at health and food insecurity in Boone, Lincoln, and Logan Counties, and the surrounding area, in West Virginia. The project’s goal is to better connect the health care providers in these counties with food resource providers in the same communities. We will reflect and prioritize the recommendations made from last year’s project. These recommendations are listed in the project issue brief.

3. The WV Developmental Disabilities Council has funded the Including All Kids project for another year as we continue to take an in-depth look at the navigational paths families take to access health care for their children with developmental disabilities. We just published our first report on the project last month, and we’ll be funding another graduate student to help us collect research for this project. 

4. New to the mix this year is a project with UniCare Health Plan of West Virginia to study trauma-informed schools in West Virginia. What works? What are the challenges? What’s the community’s role in helping expand and improve trauma-informed care in the education setting, and importantly, what local and state policies can help make every West Virginia school a trauma-informed school? The work will culminate in a seminar and final report with recommendations for the next steps forward. 

We’re optimistic for a few projects we’re hoping to launch in 2022 as well. Keep an eye on our newsletter as the months progress. 

Thanks again for your support of Think Kids and see you in 2022! 


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