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West Virginia officials welcome attention first lady is paying to the opioid epidemic


For the Times West Virginian

First lady Melania Trump made her first official visit to West Virginia Tuesday, visiting Lily’s Place, a neonatal abstinence syndrome center.

Lily’s Place, a nonprofit facility that opened its doors in 2014, handles overflow from hospitals in Huntington.

Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., said the first lady heard from Lily’s Place Executive Director Rebecca Crowder last month during a White House event. Jenkins was among those who welcomed Trump at the Tri-State Airport Tuesday when she arrived to visit the facility.

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va.

“I was honored to welcome first lady Melania Trump to my hometown of Huntington and thank her for visiting Lily’s Place to learn more about caring for babies born drug exposed,” Jenkins said in a released statement. “I helped to start Lily’s Place more than three years ago to provide specialized care for newborns exposed to heroin and other opioids.”

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also released a statement following Trump’s visit.

“I am pleased the first lady has come to West Virginia to bring national attention to the front-line of the opioid epidemic and to learn first-hand about the impacts the opioid epidemic is having on children in Huntington and across our state,” Manchin said in the release.

“The work Lily’s Place does is crucial to helping our communities and families overcome opioid addiction and I will continue to support the work they do. I look forward to continuing to work with President Trump, the first lady and with the Opioid Commission to find an end to this horrible crisis.”

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said in a Tuesday statement she was thrilled with Trump’s visit. She said Lily’s Place is a great example of working to combat addiction and consequences.

“Not only does her visit signal a real commitment to making the opioid crisis a national priority, but it is also a testament to how our state is leading the way to combat the drug epidemic,” Capito said in the statement.

“West Virginia has been affected so deeply by this crisis but we have also found some of the most effective ways to fight back and provide care for those in need.”

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also greeted the first lady and released a statement after her visit.

“It’s truly an honor to welcome the first lady to our beautiful state, although we recognize the reason for her stay is a somber one,” Morrisey said in the release.

“I know her tour of Lily’s Place, a facility that works with drug-addicted mothers and their infants, will be an eye-opener and shed light on the devastation the opioid crisis brings to families and communities in West Virginia and across the nation. The opioid epidemic has reached a critical level and the first lady recognizes that it will take a concerted effort at all levels of government to win this fight. I support her and all others who work to eradicate the scourge of addiction.”

According to data from the West Virginia Health Statistics Center, nearly 5 percent of babies born in West Virginia in 2016 were born drug-dependent. Last year, out of every 1,000 live births in the state, 49.9 babies were born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a result of the sudden discontinuation of the baby’s in-utero exposure to substances used by the mother during pregnancy.

In 2014, the rate was 32.1 babies per 1,000, and in 2015, the rate was 34.4.

Andeea Lannom is a reporter for The (Beckley) Register-Herald, a sister newspaper of the Times West Virginian.

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