Appalachia Health News

Appalachia Health News tells the story of our health challenges and how we overcome them throughout the region. 

Kara Leigh Lofton

Reporter Kara Leigh Lofton covers topics such as women’s health, chronic disease and substance abuse.

Her reports document the health-related innovation, improvement and success within the Appalachian region.

Follow her on twitter at @KaraLofton and #Appalachiahealth

Appalachia Health News is produced with support from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, CAMC, Marshall Health and WVU Medicine.

The Catholic Committee of Appalachia just published a pastoral letter. It’s the third of its kind. Forty years ago the first was written and acclaimed as “one of the most significant statements to emerge from the U.S. Catholic Church,” according to the West Virginia Encyclopedia.

Office of National Drug Control Policy

Five Appalachian counties were designated as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas today, including Jefferson County, West Virginia. The designation allows the counties to receive federal resources to improve drug control and reduce illicit use.

High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs) are defined as areas determined to be critical drug trafficking regions in the U.S., according to a news release from the Office of National Drug Control Policy. There are 28 HIDTAs across the country, and each includes several counties.

Dollar Photo Club

The West Virginia House of Delegates approved a resolution Wednesday setting up a committee to tackle substance abuse issues in the state.

On the first day of the 2016 session, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed House Resolution 3, creating the Select Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse.

wikimedia / Wikimedia

 According to the West Virginia Supreme Court, the McDowell County Adult Drug Court will hold its opening ceremony at noon Friday. The event will be held in McDowell County Circuit Judge Booker T. Stephens' courtroom.

Stephens will speak, along with state Supreme Court Justice Brent D. Benjamin and Mike B. Lacy, director of West Virginia Probation Services.

National Institutes of Health /

On January 1st, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit requirements changed for about 38 thousand adults in West Virginia. These individuals must now meet a work requirement of 20 hours a week or be enrolled in a work or education-related training program to continue receiving food assistance. Those who do not meet these requirements will cease to be eligible for benefits after three months.


Daniel Walker/WVPB

In 2013, the West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice launched a program called Handle With Care. The collaborative  program is meant to help children who’ve experienced abuse, neglect or other types of trauma succeed in school. The program that started on the West Side of Charleston is now expanding across the state and in other communities across the nation.

Hendrike / wikimedia Commons

Former West Virginia State University basketball player Kendrick Leon Ward will spend two years in prison for distributing heroin.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says Ward sold heroin to a confidential informant near a dormitory on West Virginia State's campus in Institute in 2013. The 25-year-old Oak Park, Michigan, resident pleaded guilty in September to distributing heroin within 1,000 feet of school property.

Goodwin says in a news release that Ward was sentenced on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

More than 33,000 West Virginia residents have signed up for coverage through the federal health care law.


Federal officials said this week that 33,407 West Virginians signed up or renewed coverage on the federal marketplace from Nov. 1 through Dec. 19. Nationally, more than 8.2 million people have enrolled in the 38 states that use the website and call center.

The West Virginia Department for Health and Human Resources announced a change today (Monday) in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. As of January 1, 2016, able-bodied adults without dependents in nine West Virginia counties must meet a work or education requirement in order to continue receiving SNAP benefits.

To avoid losing their benefits, SNAP recipients ages 18-49 with no dependent children need to either work or be in an educational program for 20 hours a week, every week.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, Ashton Marra reports from the state board of education meeting where members voted to repeal the standards based on Common Core.  And Stephen Kellogg is along with the Mountain Stage song of the week.  That’s on West Virginia Morning from West Virginia Public Broadcasting – telling West Virginia’s story.

Kara Lofton / WVPB

Google colorectal cancer survival rates and a rather shocking American Cancer Society chart pops up.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia Booth Goodwin
Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia

A federal grant will make a lifesaving drug available to State Troopers in three southern West Virginia counties.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia Booth Goodwin announced the $100,000 grant in Princeton Wednesday.

Doctor Patient Health Care Coverage
Fæ / wikimedia commons

Federal officials are extending the amount of time West Virginians have to sign up for health insurance through the website. CEO Kevin Counihan made the announcement in a press release Wednesday.

Kara Lofton / WVPB

The most common way children are exposed to lead these days is from the lead-based paint almost universally found in homes built before 1980. (Lead-based paint was outlawed in the late ’70s.)

When the paint deteriorates and chips, it causes dust particles that can be inhaled or even eaten (think slobbery teething toy belonging to a 10-month-old on the floor next to an old baseboard covered in lead-based paint).

Federal officials say more than 11,000 West Virginia residents have signed up for the health insurance marketplace during the open enrollment period that began Nov. 1.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On West Virginia Morning, Appalachia Health News reporter Kara Lofton looks at childhood lead poisoning and state efforts to combat it. 

These stories on West Virginia Morning from West Virginia Public Broadcasting – telling West Virginia’s story.

Human papillomavirus, more commonly called HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, affecting about 1 in 4 Americans. The HPV virus can cause cervical cancer, of which West Virginia has the highest incidence rate in the country.

Oxfordian Kissuth / wikimedia Commons

West Virginia ranks 24th in the country in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a national report released today by a coalition of public health organizations. 

The Environmental Protection Agency has reached a settlement with the carbon material and chemical company Koppers Inc. The settlement is aimed at preventing oil spills into the Ohio River from the company’s Follansbee facility in Brooke County. The river provides drinking water to 5 million people and is widely used for recreation. 

Make the Call WV

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the launch of a smartphone app and website designed to help West Virginians fight drug addiction.

The app and website are intended to be companions to the already existing website Help 4 WV. Both new platforms connect people with substance abuse and mental health resources in their immediate area.  

“One of the biggest challenges that we’ve seen as part of the reduction of demand for opiates - either prescription opiates or heroin - is getting the resources to the people who need them when they need them.”

Dollar Photo Club

West Virginia has the highest rate of youth drug overdose deaths in the country, according to a new national report.

The study, produced by the non-profit Trust for America’s Health, found that nationwide, youth drug overdose deaths have more than doubled among people aged 12-25.

CT Scan
beodao / Dollar Photo Club

  In an effort to catch lung cancer earlier and in more people, Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC) has begun a lung cancer screening program. Lung cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in West Virginia, according to the West Virginia Cancer Registry.

Opiate Addiction Sometimes Begins in the Womb

Nov 24, 2015
Dollar Photo Club

Neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS as it’s known in the medical community, is yet another problem that stems from the heroin epidemic ravaging West Virginia. NAS occurs in newborns exposed to opiates while still in the womb. When they’re born, they feel the full effects of withdrawal.

Health care professionals are now trying to come up with ways to track and deal with the problem more effectively.

Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Two weeks after President Obama’s visit to West Virginia, aimed at putting the spotlight on substance abuse issues across the country, the state’s leaders are still talking about ways to combat the issue.

At a forum in Martinsburg, Governor Tomblin met with those struggling with the disease and others trying to provide assistance in the Eastern Panhandle.

Doctor Patient Health Care Coverage
Fæ / wikimedia commons

Acuity Specialty Hospital Ohio Valley plans a $1 million expansion of its long-term acute care facility in Wheeling.

The West Virginia Health Care Authority has issued a certificate of need for the project. The certificate allows Acuity to add 16 beds to its 13-bed facility within Wheeling Hospital.

A date for the expansion hasn't been set. Acuity director Joe Garcuccio told The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register that the project is in the planning stage.

Dollar Photo Club

U.S. District Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II, just announced the launch of an organized effort to combat addiction problems in Marion, Monongalia and Harrison counties: an Addiction Action Plan. It’s an extension of an initiative that began in the Northern Panhandle late last year in response to a resurgence of heroin use in the region.

Is Huntington Getting Healthier?

Aug 9, 2015
Clark Davis / WV Public Broadcasting

Seven years ago, an Associated Press article labeled the city of Huntington, West Virginia the unhealthiest in the nation.


A federal investigation of West Virginia’s system of care for children in need of mental health services shows the state fails to comply with federal law.

In a 30-page letter to Governor Earl Ray Tomblin dated Monday,  June  1, the U.S. Department of Justice said their investigation shows the state's mental health care system for children “fails to provide services to children with significant mental health conditions in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs in violation” of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Title II of the ADA requires that “individuals with disabilities, including children with mental illness, receive supports and services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs,” according to the letter from the Department of Justice.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia has been plagued for the past few years with budget deficits. To deal with the shortfalls, the governor has cut state agency budgets across the board, implemented hiring freezes and dipped into the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

This year, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin cut the House and Senate approved budget by an additional $11 million, leaving some service programs to wonder how they’ll keep their doors open. The Charleston Health Right is just one of those service programs.

The West Virginia Health Right clinic located in Charleston's East End is a free and charitable clinic that provides medical, dental and vision services to more than 15,000 uninsured and underinsured West Virginians each year. 

ALEX EMSLIE / Special to The S.F. Examiner

In 2007, 27,444 cases of Lyme Disease were reported to the Center for Disease Control. That’s 3 people every hour, every day. And the CDC believes only 10-12 percent of Lyme Disease cases are actually being reported to them. The CDC now estimates 300,000 people per year are being infected with this illness. Many suffer with chronic symptoms for years before they discover the problem, if they discover the problem.