Across Appalachia, Thousands of Children are Affected by Opioid Addiction: Who’s Helping Them?


On this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll learn more about how children are being affected by the opioid epidemic and what’s being done to help them. 

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there’s been a surge in overdose deaths across the nation. The death rates involving opioids are 5 times what they were in 1999, for example.    

And year after year, Appalachia suffers from some of the worst statistics. In 2016, West Virginia had the highest overdose-death rate in the country. For every 2,000 people in the state, one died from an overdose. 

Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky also have some of the highest rates of drug overdose deaths.

As we know here in Appalachia, these death rates are more than numbers. It’s our friends, brothers, neighbors, classmates and coworkers.

We’ve got a Goliath to deal with here in Appalachia and across the country. We’d love to know your thoughts. Tell us how addiction has touched your life, or the lives of children you know. Do you have any creative ways to help these kids? Send us an email to

Best Practices for Treating Opioid-Exposed Newborns

As the opioid epidemic has grown in Appalachia, so has the number of babies born dependent on drugs. They have what’s called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). A variety of medical experts and nurses are trying to find the best way to help these babies, and a number of treatment programs have cropped up across Appalachia. But as Kara Lofton reports, there isn’t agreement on the best way to care for these babies, or their mothers. 

Opioid Epidemic Putting Thousands More in Foster Care

Thousands of children are in foster care throughout central Appalachia, and the opioid epidemic is sending thousands more to join them. According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, of the nearly 6,400 children in foster care in the mountain state, 50 are available for adoption. Two years ago on Inside Appalachia, we heard from a foster family named the Holbens, who live in Kearneysville, West Virginia, up in the Eastern Panhandle. Their story showed us the strain the opioid epidemic is having on the foster care system.

We checked back in with the Holbens to explore what lies ahead in combating this crisis. Reporter Liz McCormick brings us the story.

 ‘I Can’t Fix It’- A First Responder and Heroin

Mark Strickland works at the Fire Department in Charleston, West Virginia. On the front lines, he sees first hand day after day people battling addiction, overdosing and dying from drugs. But as Strickland told Anna Sale on an episode of Death Sex and Money, a podcast from WNYC, the most difficult calls involve children. You can find the rest of this episode and all other Death, Sex and Money episodes at or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.  

Increases in Sex Trafficking

West Virginia’s drug epidemic may be leading to increases in what’s called “familial sex trafficking.” Family members sometimes trade sex with a child for drugs or money. But Kara Lofton reports spotting the problem and prosecuting the offenders is difficult.

We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from WNYC and their podcast Death, Sex and Money, and Appalachia Health News.

Our theme music is by Ben Townsend. Roxy Todd and I produce Inside Appalachia. Jessica Lilly. Ibby Caputo edited our episode this week. Our executive producer is Jesse Wright. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. You can find us online on Twitter @InAppalachia. Email us at