One in three Logan County children under age six lives in poverty and faces real and frightening issues they have to cope with every day.
Homelessness, hunger, access to health care, domestic abuse, prison overcrowding, teen pregnancy, over-prescribing of prescription drugs and parent education were among the issues discussed at a forum with more than 100 attendees March 16.
The forum was one in of 47 forums being held in support of the statewide campaign called “Our Children, Our Future,” sponsored by the WV Healthy Kids and Families Coalition and 126 partner organizations, including the WV Chamber of Commerce, the state AFL-CIO, the WV Council of Churches, and many elected officials legislators, community organizations, universities and families.
Logan High School Believing All is Possible (BAPS) Youth Leadership members Summer Burgess and Jasmine Murphy spoke on the issues of teen pregnancy and prison overcrowding.
Burgess presented the case for more education in the schools about sex and sexually transmitted diseases education in schools and having birth control available to help prevent teen pregnancy, but once teens become pregnant, they need education programs to understand how various agencies and programs may be able to help and how to use their services.
“If we have community programs for things like thrift shops, welfare, insurance and Medicare; why can’t we help 15-year-olds have a baby?” said Burgess, “We already know these babies are our future; instead of making them feel like they are bad, why don’t we help the mothers of our future become good parents?”
Jasmine Murphy began by sharing the touching story of her life after her father’s incarceration when she was only three years old. She says he is out now, but he missed most of her life.
“My whole life I’ve wondered if things would have been better for my mom and me if my dad had been with us,” said Murphy. She believes if her father would have had the opportunity to have job, to get the help he needed and to get an education, things would have been different for her family. Her appeal is for not keeping good people who are prisoners in jail for years, but provide opportunities for them to change their lives.
“It takes 27,000 a year to keep a person in prison and it would cost $200 million to build a new prison,” said Murphy, “We could spend all that money ways that really help people improve their lives like drug treatment, training for jobs and college tuition.”
Senators Art Kirkendoll and Ron Stollings, Logan County Commission President Danny Godby and LoganCounty Board of Education member Mark McGrew heard the presentations from agencies including LEAD, PRIDE, DHHR and BAPS and fielded questions exploring possible legislative support in addressing the issue of child poverty.
Sen. Kirkendoll says he will be a watchdog and will also be challenging some of the state agencies to be sure children don’t fall through the cracks.
“We talked about the need for a cooperative effort with all the agencies coming together to help give kids a normal life,” Kirkendoll said, “Stability at home leads to success in life. If we make sure kids are fed, protected from harm and give them an opportunity for an education, they will be able to stay drug free, crime free, and have a real future.”
There will a forum in Mingo County on the Williamson campus of Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College on Friday, March 22, beginning at 4 p.m.