CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia, which operates the 1-800-Gambler program, has a new director.
Jennifer Davis-Walton, who has been a clinical coordinator for the network for seven years, is now leading the program. She has also previously worked as a therapist specializing in problem gambling. She holds an MA in Psychology from Marshall University. She is a Nationally Certified Gambling Counselor and has a certificate in Distance Counseling. She has done more than 2000 clinical interventions with problem gamblers and their loved ones.
One of Davis-Walton’s first goals as program director is to increase adolescent awareness of gambling addiction by expanding the program’s prevention efforts into schools. She said, “Studies have shown that kids have a high rate of problem gambling, and we have found that the younger someone starts gambling, the more likely it is that they will develop a problem. Kids can be very naïve about the odds of winning, and they see someone on television who has won big, but they don’t understand how unlikely that is to happen to them.”
Davis-Walton has plans to expand access to treatment services in the state for problem gamblers. She encourages more people to take advantage of the network’s distance counseling feature. She explained, “Although we have more than 70 therapists who specialize in gambling addiction, many people in rural areas still have problems getting to treatment because of barriers like transportation and childcare. Distance counseling allows anyone with a computer or smart phone to get help from one of our therapists without leaving their home.”
The 1-800-Gambler program, operated by First Choice Health Systems, has been the state’s primary resource for problem gamblers for 16 years. More than 12,000 people from West Virginia have called the helpline asking for help for a gambling problem.
NAME LINE: Jennifer Davis-Walton