Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

DHHR to Launch 'Safe at Home WV'

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

DHHR to Launch 'Safe at Home WV'

Article excerpt

West Virginia has more children in out-of-home care than any other state, and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources' latest program is aimed toward curbing that number by improving the health and safety of the state's at-risk children. According to DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling, the Safe At Home West Virginia program, which launches this month in 11 counties, is a federally funded initiative focused on reducing the reliance on foster care and congregate care for 12- to 17-year-olds and their families.

"This is a system change; it's a different way of thinking about child welfare in the state of West Virginia, she said. "We are going to make change together. I am very passionate about this, I feel strongly about this, and my folks know that - from day one, in July 2014, there was a recognition that we needed to do something different. That we couldn't just do it the way we'd been doing it for the last 20 years.

"The progress that has been made in two years is phenomenal; we still have work to do.

Bowling discussed Safe at Home with community partners, legislators, lawyers, judges and agency representatives from across the state Wednesday at the program's launch in Charleston.

The project stemmed from The Three Branch Institute on Child Social and Emotional Well-Being, a collaboration created in seven states in 2013 and comprised of representatives from the legislative, judicial and executive branches.

The project will expand statewide over the next two years, and is designed to prevent re-entries into the foster care system; reduce the number of children in higher-cost placements out-of-state; step down youth in congregate care and try to reunify them with their families and home communities; and keep youth in their own communities.

"Children flourish best in a home environment, Bowling said.

In August, the West Virginia Health Care Authority, by request of the Department of Health and Human Resources, approved forgoing a Certificate of Need review for a 70-bed psychiatric residential treatment facility for children in Logan. …

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