Appalachia Health News is an ongoing series that tells the story of our health challenges and how we overcome them throughout the region. Our reporters cover topics such as women’s health, chronic disease and substance abuse, as well as documenting the health-related innovation, improvement and success within the Appalachian region.

Our Appalachia Health News Reporter is Emily Rice.

Appalachia Health News is produced with support from Marshall Health.

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Stories

Emily Rice,Feb. 21, 2024

Case Of Avian Influenza Confirmed In Kanawha County

The first confirmed case of avian influenza in West Virginia since 2006 has been found in a non-commercial backyard flock in Kanawha County

Emily Rice,Feb. 15, 2024

House Committee Moves To Change Vaccination Laws For Public Virtual Students

Children attending state-run virtual school may no longer have to be vaccinated if a House Health Committee becomes law.

Emily Rice,Feb. 14, 2024

House Committee Moves To Legalize Sale Of Raw Milk

On Tuesday, lawmakers on the House Health and Human Resources Committee moved to legalize the sale of raw milk in West Virginia.

Emily Rice,Feb. 13, 2024

Black Lung Compensation Falling Behind Inflation

Advocates report the monthly benefit rate for miners with Black Lung has not kept up with inflation.

Emily Rice,Feb. 07, 2024

State Accepting Public Comments On The Future Of TANF

Public comments will be accepted on the Federal Fiscal Year 2024 State Plan for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF program.

Emily Rice,Feb. 06, 2024

Senate Health Committee Focuses On Tobacco Cessation and Lung Health

A bill prohibiting smoking in a vehicle when a minor is present passed the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources on Tuesday.

Emily Rice,Jan. 24, 2024

West Virginia Earns Failing Grades In Tobacco Use

West Virginia has once again scored failing marks on its annual State of Tobacco Report Card.

Emily Rice,Jan. 23, 2024

Students Gather At The Capitol To Say No To Tobacco

Keeping kids off of nicotine was the focus of a rally at the state capitol on Jan. 23, 2024.

Emily Rice,Jan. 15, 2024

Senate Recognizes Child Advocacy Day

Monday was Child Advocacy Day at the Capitol, bringing together child welfare advocates to provide resources and educate the public.

Emily Rice,Jan. 15, 2024

CHH Nurses Reach Contract Agreement

Following a Dec. 8 “Code Blue” call for concern, nurses and nurse practitioners at Cabell Huntington Hospital (CHH) have reached a three-year collective bargaining agreement.

Emily Rice,Jan. 11, 2024

W.Va. Children 5 Times More At Risk Of Drug Endangerment

The West Virginia Child Advocacy Group, or WVCAN, saw a nearly 10 percent increase in children served in the past five years.

Emily Rice,Jan. 10, 2024

Black Children Most Likely To Live In Poverty In W.Va., New Report Finds

A report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found Latino children are the least likely to live in poverty in West Virginia.

Emily Rice,Jan. 09, 2024

Key Health Players Look Back At The 2014 Water Crisis

Ten years ago, a state of emergency and water advisory was issued for nine West Virginia counties following a chemical spill in the Elk River.

Emily Rice,Jan. 03, 2024

DHHR Officially Split Into Three Departments

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has been split into three separate departments following the passage of a bill to split the agency passed last year.

Emily Rice,Jan. 03, 2024

Analysis Of West Virginia Dental Care Reveals Barriers For Some

A mystery dental shopper survey in West Virginia found long wait times for appointments, especially for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) and those on Medicaid.

Emily Rice,Dec. 21, 2023

Morrisey Partners With State Auditor To Ensure Proper Local Spending Of Opioid Funds

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced a partnership with the state Auditor’s Office to supplement efforts to ensure opioid settlement money will be used for its intended purposes as outlined in the West Virginia First Foundation Memorandum of Understanding.

Emily Rice,Dec. 08, 2023

Union Nurses Call “Code Blue” For Understaffing At Cabell Huntington Hospital

Union members at Cabell Huntington Hospital are calling for “code blue” attention to be paid to its understaffing issues.

Emily Rice,Dec. 05, 2023

Consolidation Brings Pharmacy Deserts To W.Va.

With the closing and consolidation of pharmacy chains and independent retailers, patients are left wondering where to go for guidance and their medications.

Emily Rice,Nov. 28, 2023

Opioid Settlement Funds Foundation Discusses Next Steps

During the second meeting of the West Virginia First Foundation Board, members approved motions to continue the establishment of the organization.

Chris Schulz,Nov. 18, 2023

Dementia And The Holidays, Hope For Opioid Settlement Money And Concerning Health Trends, This West Virginia Week 

On this West Virginia Week, we hear about some of the health challenges facing West Virginians — including lung disease, HIV/AIDS outbreaks and recovery.

Emily Rice,Nov. 16, 2023

New Report Details Poor Infant And Maternal Health In W.Va.

A new report from the March of Dimes shows West Virginia’s already high preterm birth rate is rising.

Emily Rice,Nov. 15, 2023

W.Va. Ranks Poorly In National Lung Cancer Report

Lung cancer and smoking rates in the state lag behind the rest of the country and aren’t showing any signs of improvement, according to a new report.

Emily Rice,Nov. 14, 2023

Fauci Weighs In On W.Va.’s HIV Rate

HIV Aids is on the rise in Monongalia County as a group of WVU Medical students learned recently on a Zoom call with Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Emily Rice,Oct. 30, 2023

W.Va. State Police Advise Caution For A Happy Halloween

With All Hallow’s Eve approaching, the West Virginia State Police provided the public with some safety tips.

Emily Rice,Oct. 27, 2023

Fairmont State University Students Provided ‘Pipeline’ To Pursue Medical Degrees

Two West Virginia state schools signed a memorandum of understanding to promote medical student’s acceptance.

Emily Rice,Oct. 25, 2023

DHHR Changes Dashboard To Track Respiratory Illness Season

The Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) has replaced its COVID-19 dashboard with a new system to track three respiratory diseases.

Emily Rice,Oct. 24, 2023

Medicare Experts Encourage Members To Check Their Coverage

Experts advise Medicare members to review their coverage and watch out for scams during open enrollment season.

Emily Rice,Oct. 19, 2023

Health Experts Advise Vaccination Ahead Of Respiratory Illness Season

As respiratory illness season ramps up, health experts are encouraging West Virginians to promote health and safety in their communities.

Emily Rice,Oct. 19, 2023

Facing West Virginia’s Child Care Cliff

On a national level, the end of pandemic-era benefits will affect child care costs and access. West Virginia hopes to avoid those shortfalls by relying on individual child care subsidies that date back to the 1960s.

Emily Rice,Oct. 19, 2023

Advocates Discuss Black Infant And Maternal Health With Lawmakers

The Black Infant and Maternal Health Working Group hosted a breakfast and meet and greet with lawmakers Monday at the capitol.

Emily Rice,Oct. 18, 2023

Hundreds Of Teens Attend Anti-Tobacco Summit

Hundreds of middle and high school students gathered at the Raze Youth Summit to learn about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping.

Emily Rice,Oct. 17, 2023

Lawmakers Discuss Vaccination Laws

West Virginia allows for medical exemptions to vaccines but does not allow for exemptions based on religious or philosophical beliefs. Some lawmakers would like to see those laws change.

Emily Rice,Oct. 16, 2023

Free Two-Day Clinic Coming To Charleston

A non-profit provider of pop-up clinics will deliver free dental, vision and medical care to those in need in Charleston.

Emily Rice,Oct. 13, 2023

Annual Anti-Tobacco Summit Aims To Slow Nicotine Use In Teens

An annual event is set to educate more than 600 youth from across West Virginia about the dangers of nicotine use.

Emily Rice,Oct. 10, 2023

DHHR To Distribute Federal Funding For Mental Health And Substance Use Services

In a release, the DHHR outlined seven grant programs that will support various health initiatives across the state.

Emily Rice,Sep. 29, 2023

Child Care Centers To Receive Final Pandemic-Era Payment

A final pandemic era payment will be issued to child care centers across the state, according to Gov. Jim Justice.

Emily Rice,Sep. 28, 2023

VA Reminds Combat Veterans Of PACT Act Deadline Saturday

Certain combat Veterans can enroll in VA health care without first applying for VA benefits.

Emily Rice,Sep. 27, 2023

Documentary Film Dives Deeper Into Minden, W.Va. Contamination

A film called Impossible Town, based in Minden, West Virginia features Dr. Ayne Amjad’s efforts to relocate the town’s residents after decades of exposure to chemical contamination during her tenure as the state’s health officer.

Emily Rice,Sep. 25, 2023

Head Start W.Va. Worry Ahead Of Probable Government Shutdown

Hundreds of families in West Virginia could lose the support of Head Start if the government shuts down.

Emily Rice,Sep. 21, 2023

WVU Nursing School Nationally Ranked 

The West Virginia University School of Nursing undergraduate nursing program has again been named one of the top 100 nursing schools in the country.

Emily Rice,Sep. 21, 2023

Officials Call For Vigilance Against Respiratory Illness

Sherri Young, the interim secretary of the DHHR, and incoming secretary for the new Department of Health, spoke with Appalachia Health News Reporter Emily Rice about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Emily Rice,Sep. 20, 2023

Officials Advise Vaccination Ahead Of Respiratory Illness Season

Officials recommend West Virginians ages six months and older stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations.

Emily Rice,Sep. 20, 2023

Black Lung Advocates Want More From New Proposed Silica Dust Rule

A draft rule to protect coal miners from exposure to silica dust garnered more than 5,200 comments from advocates and the American public.

Emily Rice,Sep. 15, 2023

WVU Researchers Seek Participants For Telehealth Study

A study will measure the effectiveness of telehealth as a means for patients to remain at home while managing their care.

Emily Rice,Sep. 14, 2023

Project Remodels Homes For Health

A $1 million grant provided by UniCare helped establish a program aimed at improving the livability and conditions of five homes throughout West Virginia.

Emily Rice,Sep. 13, 2023

New COVID-19 Vaccine Protects Against Variants

A new COVID-19 has been approved for all Americans six months and older.

Emily Rice,Sep. 13, 2023

Save A Life Day To Distribute Narcan

An event that started in West Virginia’s Kanawha Valley has now spread to all 13 federally recognized Appalachian states.

Emily Rice,Sep. 13, 2023

Abortion Access Eases With New Clinic In Maryland

The Women’s Health Center of Maryland in Cumberland will see its first patients on Sept. 13.

Emily Rice,Sep. 12, 2023

Lawmakers Hear Updates On DHHR Reorganization

The three appointed secretaries of the new bureaus of the DHHR provided lawmakers with updates on restructuring within the department. Legislation passed in 2023 required the department to be reorganized and split into three agencies after concerns of inefficiencies in the system.

Emily Rice,Sep. 07, 2023

September Is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

The goal of the 988 line is to connect people in crisis with someone in their community who can point them to local resources.

Emily Rice,Sep. 07, 2023

W.Va. Needs More Foster Families For Teens

The majority of West Virginia’s children in foster care are actually teenagers. Many of them are placed in group homes instead of foster care.

Emily Rice,Sep. 06, 2023

Officials Advise Caution Against Fall Respiratory Illness

A new vaccine to protect against the many strains of COVID-19 will be available at the end of September.

Emily Rice,Sep. 05, 2023

State Leaders Recognize Adult Family Care Workers

September is adult family care month in West Virginia.

Emily Rice,Sep. 01, 2023

W.Va. Receives $4.4 Million To Fight Opioids

Federal funding was awarded to West Virginia in response to the overdose risk from fentanyl and other opioids.

Emily Rice,Aug. 31, 2023

Industry Leaders Discuss Workforce Health

State health care leaders met Thursday at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting and business summit at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs.

Emily Rice,Aug. 29, 2023

Shortages Vary Across Hospitals

Staffing shortages place an immense strain on the entire health care system, leaving hospitals and medical centers overwhelmed and unable to provide optimal care for patients.

Emily Rice,Aug. 24, 2023

MU Summit To Address Xylazine In Opioid Crisis

A Friday summit at Marshall University will explore critical interventions against the use of the drug xylazine as part of the opioid crisis.

Emily Rice,Aug. 24, 2023

Nursing Shortages Limit Timely Care In W.Va.

Nursing had the highest overall rates of vacancies and turnovers of all the professions studied in a hospital workforce report.

Emily Rice,Aug. 23, 2023

State Officials Aim To Stop Vaping Before It Starts

A new initiative aims to curb rates of vaping among West Virginia’s teenagers.

Emily Rice,Aug. 23, 2023

Black Lung Health Fair Held In Oak Hill

A free health fair on Tuesday gave the community of Oak Hill the opportunity to be tested for black lung disease.

Emily Rice,Aug. 21, 2023

Black Lung Screenings And Town Hall In Oakhill

Black lung screenings will be available and free to the public Tuesday in Oak Hill.

Emily Rice,Aug. 18, 2023

Lawsuit Against W.Va. Foster Care Gains Forward Momentum

The court found that the plaintiffs “demonstrated that DHHR maintains an inadequate array of placements to meet the needs of these foster children.”

Emily Rice,Aug. 18, 2023

Health Officials Prepare For Autumn Vaccinations

Ahead of this year’s viral respiratory season, health officials advise checking with your physician for vaccination recommendations.

Emily Rice,Aug. 08, 2023

Commissioner Reports Reduced CPS Vacancies

During the interim legislative session, Commissioner of the Bureau for Social Services Jeffrey Pack provided updates on hiring and retention initiatives in the department.

Emily Rice,Jul. 31, 2023

W.Va. School Of Osteopathic Medicine Clinic Receives Funding

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services aims to improve health care in rural areas with the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program in Lewisburg, West Virginia by establishing new Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) access points.

Emily Rice,Jul. 27, 2023

WVU Experts Instrumental In Approval Of New RSV Prevention Medication

Medical experts at West Virginia University are excited about the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of Beyfortus as a major advancement to prevent RSV.

Liz McCormick,Jul. 26, 2023

Rural Residency Program For Internal Medicine Coming To Marshall

A new federal grant is expected to support a three-year, rural internal medicine residency program aimed at improving the needs of rural communities in Appalachia.

Emily Rice,Jul. 24, 2023

Quarterly Newsletter Aims To Help Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Parents

Mission West Virginia and the West Virginia Department and Health and Human Resources (DHHR) have partnered to electronically publish a quarterly newsletter for families called West Virginia Kids Thrive.

Emily Rice,Jul. 21, 2023

Texts Increase In First Year Of 988

The new three-digit national crisis line took five million calls in its first year of operation. Federal officials say that is up 35 percent compared to the old 10-digit line. 

Emily Rice,Jul. 19, 2023

W.Va. Hospitals Contribute $1 Billion In Community Investment

Annually, West Virginia hospitals treat 6.8 million people with 5.6 million of those patients being treated in outpatient care.

Emily Rice,Jul. 05, 2023

Community Education Group Delivers Health Kits To Those In Need

The CEG is a non-profit organization with its base of operations in Lost River, West Virginia. The organization focuses on the “syndemic” or synergistic epidemic in Appalachia. 

Emily Rice,Jun. 26, 2023

Morrisey Provides Updates On Opioid Settlement Monies

Morrisey informed elected officials and the public about the next steps following the creation of the foundation, as well as information about the settlement funds.

Emily Rice,Jun. 22, 2023

Decoding The Drug Epidemic

When it comes to decoding the language of the drug epidemic, advocates say compassionate language plays a crucial part in discussing the drug epidemic.

Emily Rice,Jun. 21, 2023

COVID-19 Still A Threat To Elderly W.Va. Population

In a weekly update, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) reported six additional deaths attributed to the virus in the past week bringing the total number to 8,155.

Caroline MacGregor,Jun. 21, 2023

W.Va. Hospitals Continue To Struggle Post-COVID-19

West Virginia’s hospitals continue to navigate an altered landscape since the onset of COVID-19. While there has been progress over the past year, hospitals in West Virginia still face a broad ranging shortage of healthcare workers. Health care providers struggle with a backlog of care for patients, problems with supply chains, mounting financial pressures and legislative changes to insurance.

Emily Rice,Jun. 15, 2023

$50 million In State Surplus Awarded to WVU Cancer Institute

Alongside health officials from West Virginia University, Gov. Jim Justice announced Thursday that $50 million of the state’s surplus funding will support investment to attain National Cancer Institute designation for the WVU Cancer Institute.

Emily Rice,Jun. 15, 2023

Combating Hunger in Mercer County

In Mercer County, nearly 175 food-insecure families get free, nutritious meal deliveries via DoorDash to combat rural child hunger in the Mountain State.

Emily Rice,Jun. 09, 2023

Marshall Seeks Participants In Art And Aging Study

Researchers at Marshall University are seeking participants 55 and older to examine the effect of visual art activities on the well-being of aging adults.

Emily Rice,Jun. 08, 2023

Canadian Wildfire Smoke Lingers Over W.Va.

According to the Air Now Fire and Smoke Map, West Virginia’s panhandles are experiencing the majority of particle pollution in the state, especially in the Eastern Panhandle, where Shepherdstown has been issued a code red warning for “unhealthy” air quality.

Emily Rice,Jun. 08, 2023

Experts Say Understanding Terminology Of Addiction Helps Treat The Disease

The drug epidemic is an ever-evolving hot-button topic with tons of buzzwords. But what does it all mean?

Emily Rice,Jun. 07, 2023

Recent Statistics Show Decline In Opioid Overdose Rates

According to provisional data, the state’s overdose rate fell from February 2022 to February 2023. The data shows that opioid overdose rates have dropped by approximately 8 percent, marking the most substantial decrease since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emily Rice,Jun. 02, 2023

W.Va. To Receive $1.5 Million In Suboxone Monopoly Settlement

West Virginia will receive close to $1.5 million from a nationwide settlement.

Emily Rice,Jun. 02, 2023

New Technology Improves Outcomes For Heart Patients

A team of cardiologists at Marshall Health and St. Mary’s Regional Heart Institute successfully used new technology to achieve better visualization and access to the heart, improving the success rate of cardiac ablation procedures.

Emily Rice,May. 30, 2023

Center For Excellence In Disabilities Provides Help For Foster Families

WVU’s Center for Excellence in Disabilities has been in operation for 43 years. It does not focus on one disability in particular but instead cares for those with disabilities at every age.

Emily Rice,May. 25, 2023

Black Lung Clinics Awarded More Than $2 Million

Black lung clinics across West Virginia will receive more than $2 million in federal funding.

Emily Rice,May. 23, 2023

Surgeon General Issues Advisory On Social Media And Youth Mental Health

The U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory Tuesday stating that up to 95 percent of youth ages 13 to 17 report using a social media platform.

Emily Rice,May. 23, 2023

USDA Grants Support Local Projects In Rural Counties

In West Virginia, the investments announced on Monday total $16.9 million to address immediate needs and foster long-term economic growth.

Emily Rice,May. 22, 2023

USDA Grant To Provide Rural Healthcare

Boone Memorial Health will receive a $14.4 million loan to renovate a facility into a health and wellness clinic along with a direct grant.

Emily Rice,May. 16, 2023

Options In Health Insurance Marketplaces

Since the end of the Public Health Emergency and the unrolling of Medicaid, health insurance workers are already seeing an uptick in inquiries.

Emily Rice,May. 15, 2023

Top Doctors Named Across W.Va.

Doctors across eight specialties within Mon Health System were named Top Doctors by Castle Connolly and published in local publications.

Emily Rice,May. 12, 2023

New Mobile Simulation Lab To Provide Medical Training To Rural Populations

The mobile simulation lab will provide access to nursing education for both currently practicing nurses and future nurses currently in nursing school.

Emily Rice,May. 11, 2023

Justice Recognizes Childrens Mental Health Awareness Week

During his weekly briefing, Gov. Jim Justice proclaimed this week is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

Emily Rice,May. 11, 2023

Grant Transforming Neuroscience Research In W.Va.

The team aims to understand how certain mental stressors change the development of the brain and how it is wired.

Emily Rice,May. 05, 2023

WVU Researchers Suggest Washing Produce Twice Before Eating

The safest way to consume any food is to wash it with a specialty cleaner made for produce, or a mixture of water and vinegar upon arrival at the home, and again before preparing or eating it.

Emily Rice,May. 04, 2023

State Officials Work To Uplift The Foster Care System This Month

Gov. Jim Justice declared that May is Foster Care Month, an initiative to strengthen and uplift the children in the system and their case workers.

Emily Rice,May. 03, 2023

Officials Report ‘Positive Momentum’ In Restructuring

During a briefing, Dr. Jeff Coben, interim secretary of the DHHR, was asked multiple questions about the progress of the restructuring process of the agency.

Eric Douglas,May. 02, 2023

Survey Results Reveal Mental Health Issues In W.Va.

The MATCH survey allows West Virginia community needs to be matched with health resources and provides information to support decision making on state and local levels.

Emily Rice,Apr. 28, 2023

WVU Student Aims To Connect Those Aging Out Of State Care To Higher Education

Less than three percent of people raised in state care nationwide obtain a college degree. One West Virginia University (WVU) Newman Civic Fellow aims to change that statistic.

Emily Rice,Apr. 27, 2023

Pilot Program To Allow Survivors Attend Court Virtually

Pandemic-era technology will help survivors of domestic and sexual abuse face their alleged abuser in court – virtually. 

Randy Yohe,Apr. 21, 2023

Lily’s Place Holds Ribbon Cutting For Children’s Center

West Virginia lays claim to Lily’s Place, the nation’s first medical center specifically created for infants born from addicted parents. The Huntington facility is now expanding their services to support these growing infants’ siblings and families.