Archives September 2020

New River Bridge Bridge Day Celebration

Community Education Group Forms West Virginia Statewide Stakeholder Coalition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Public Health and Community Organizations Join Forces to Combat Triple Threat of Substance Use, HIV, Hepatitis Outbreaks in West Virginia

New Coalition Will Take on Rising Infection Rates and Drug Overdose Deaths in the State

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. SEPTEMBER 17, 2020 – The West Virginia Statewide Stakeholder Coalition (WVSSC) convened for the first time on September 1, 2020, to address West Virginia’s growing “syndemic” of HIV/Hepatitis C (HCV) outbreaks and drug overdose deaths. The group’s primary mission is to break down technical, regulatory, and administrative barriers that limit testing, treatment, and support across HIV, viral hepatitis, and substance use disorder [SUD] programs. Such barriers create “treatment silos” that fail to reflect the medical and social realities behind the interrelated health crises—and thereby impede effective intervention.

The meeting was convened by the health advocacy organization Shepherdstown-based Community Education Group (CEG). CEG formed the new statewide coalition aimed at stemming the rising tide of fatalities and HIV and viral hepatitis infections driven by West Virginia’s ongoing opioid crisis. 

“We are facing an unprecedented Substance Use Disorder epidemic in West Virginia,” said A. Toni Young, Founder and Executive Director of CEG. “An epidemic that is directly linked to our state’s highest-in-the-nation rates of Viral Hepatitis, to three HIV outbreaks in the past four years, and to the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation. It constitutes an immediate and ongoing threat to public health, requiring a proportional response. The West Virginia Statewide Stakeholder Coalition assembles the expertise and collaborative strategy to spearhead that response.”

The WVSSC will focus on expanding awareness, education, rapid testing for HIV and Viral Hepatitis, treatment for SUD, and linkage-to-care networks which refer those recently diagnosed with HIV or Viral Hepatitis to treatment resources. 

The first WVSSC meeting brought together 65 individuals and organizations including state government and public health officials, healthcare providers, national organizations, school board officials, community-based organizations, and others from across West Virginia. 

Representatives attendees for WVSSC include: West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources; the Bureau for Public Health; the Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services; the Office of Laboratory Services; the Office of Drug Control Policy; the Doddridge, Marion, Marshall, Mid-Ohio Valley, and Monongalia County Health Departments; Berkeley County Schools; the Hancock County Commission; the Jefferson Berkeley Alliance on Substance Abuse Prevention; the United Ways of Central WV, Marion, and Taylor Counties; Community Connections; David Medical Center; the Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council; Eastridge Health Systems; EnAct, Inc.; the Family Resource Networks in Fayette, Gilmer, and Jackson Counties; the Morgan County Homeless Coalition; the Regional Intergovernmental Council; the West Virginia Institute of Community and Rural Health; West Virginia University; and many other private and public community members from across the state.

WVSSC’s primary goals include: 

1.)   Working to deconstruct disease state silos between Substance Use Disorder, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis by increasing awareness, education, and building linkages to care and treatment networks;

2.)   Working to expand HIV screening, rapid testing, surveillance, treatment, and linkage to care throughout West Virginia, reaching into hard-to-reach and hard-to-treat parts of the states;

3.)   Helping to develop statewide elimination plans for HIV and Viral Hepatitis;

4.)   Developing statewide working groups focused on SUD, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis;

5.)   Offering educational opportunities to Providers, Organizations, and Consumers centered around HIV, Substance Use Disorders, and Viral Hepatitis

NEXT MEETING: The next open meeting of WVSSC will be held on October 13, 2020, at 2:00 PM ET.  All are invited. Sign up by filling out the form at this address

People Worth Knowing – Monique Tula

This week’s #PeopleWorthKnowing interview features Monique Tula, Executive Director of the National Harm Reduction Coalition (NHRC).

Monique has devoted her career to lifting the voices of people pushed into society’s margins caused by capitalism and racial inequity. Central to her belief system is the deep awareness of our interconnectedness, regardless of individual circumstances. Her life’s work is a conscious manifestation of the belief that harm to one is harm to us all. She aims to live each day in the moment, in pursuit of balance, personal growth, and discovery—some days are harder to do this than others.

Mother of Christian, grandmother of Malcolm, and life partner of Adam, she lives in Los Angeles with her family and their two agro black cats, Necro and Mancer.

You can visit NHRCs website by clicking on the logo, below, and links to their various social media pages will be listed below.

Community Education Group & WVU to Host Statewide HIV Meeting

Presenters to include NIH and community health leaders
Monday, September 14, 2020

MORGANTOWN, W.VA.: Great strides have been made in recent years in the field of HIV and AIDS prevention and research. On September 29, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. national and community health leaders will be leading a virtual discussion on these advances and challenges that remain in West Virginia communities.

This virtual event will be divided into two segments. The first segment will begin at 11 a.m. and will feature a keynote address by Maureen Goodenow, PhD, who serves as the associate director of AIDS research and the director of the National Institute of AIDS Research. Goodenow will be followed by Ming Lei, PhD, who serves as director of the Division of Research for Capacity Building at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Following their remarks, a panel of West Virginia health leaders will weigh in on current research efforts and how they directly affect the Mountain State. In addition to Goodenow and Lei, Judith Feinberg, professor and vice chair of research with the West Virginia University School of Medicine will serve on the panel, with additional panelists to be announced. Attendees will be able to ask questions of the panelists.

At noon, the discussion will turn towards community efforts, led by a panel of health department and community experts who work daily to educate and treat West Virginians with HIV. Confirmed panelists include: Terrence Reidy, MD, MPH, health officer, Berkeley/Morgan and Jefferson Counties Health Departments, Michael Kilkenny, MD, physician director, Cabell Huntington Health Department and Laura Jones, MSW, executive director of Milan Puskar HealthRight. More panelists will be added as they are confirmed.

This event is the first installment of the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s “In Focus” series, which will center around specific health topics in fall 2020. The first session will be hosted in partnership with the Community Education Group, an organization working to foster community engagement in community-based research programs while giving a voice to people whose lives are directly affected by HIV/AIDS and other health crises.

This event is free and open to the public, particularly those involved in clinical care and HIV and AIDS research.

Attendees must RSVP at the event webpage. A link to the ZOOM webinar will be shared one week prior to the event.

COVID-19 Relief Package Distribution to Begin in October 2020

Image with organization logos arranged in a circle. The organizations included are:

Community Education Group
Branches
WVEP
Harmony House
Good Samaritan
MP Health Right
Southwestern Community Action Council, Inc.
Community Action of South Eastern Wast Virginia
Covenant House
Change, Inc.
and the Greater Wheeling Coalition for the Homeless

#CEGInWV has partnered with 18 organizations across West Virginia to distribute 2,000 COVID-19 Relief Packages.

These packages will include a backpack filled with hand sanitizer, face masks, an educational infographic and resource guide, and a $5 Kroger gift card to purchase water.

The call for supplies was so great, we had to quadruple our initial order of 500 backpacks and 1,000 masks, request an additional 1,500 backpacks and 3,000 masks.

Because of the need for more supplies, we are currently awaiting that second order of backpacks and masks.

Distribution will begin in October 2020.

In just two weeks, we secured an unprecedented 18 distribution partners for our COVID-19 Relief Packages.

You can find a list of our distribution partners, below, as well as links to their respective websites.

Take the Opioid Treatment Program Moratorium Survey

In 2007, the West Virginia legislature passed a moratorium (§16-5Y-12) on the opening of new Opioid Treatment Programs (OTPs) that offer Methadone for use in Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).

Since the passage of (§16-5Y-12), West Virginia’s opioid addiction crisis has raged out of control, leaving with the highest rate of Drug Overdose Deaths, the highest rate of new Hepatitis A infections, the highest rate of new Hepatitis B infections, and the second-highest rate of new Hepatitis C infections in the United States in 2018. In addition, Injection Drug Use (IDU) of both opioids, and stimulants accounted for 91 (62.3%) of the 146 new HIV infections in West Virginia in 2019.

#CEGInWV is asking providers, Community-Based Organizations, and individuals about the OTP Moratorium.

Inaugural West Virginia Statewide Stakeholder Meeting a Resounding Success

#CEGInWV hosted a very successful inaugural West Virginia Statewide Stakeholder Meeting, on Tuesday, September 1st, 2020.

The meeting brought together 65 individuals and organizations, including state government and public health officials, healthcare providers, national organizations, school board officials, Community-Based Organizations, and others from across West Virginia.

CEG’s Founder and Executive Director, A. Toni Young, presented about CEG’s work in the state of West Virginia, including the following:

  1. Working to deconstruct disease state silos between Substance Use Disorder, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis by increasing awareness, education, and building linkage to care networks;
  2. Working to overturn West Virginia’s 2007 legislative moratorium (§16-5Y-12) on new Opioid Treatment Programs that offer Methadone for use as Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT);
  3. Working to expand HIV screening, rapid testing, surveillance, treatment, and linkage to care throughout West Virginia, reaching into hard-to-reach and hard-to-treat parts of the states;
  4. Working with the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health, Department of Health and Human Resources, and Office of Laboratory Services to clarify, adapt, and revise West Virginia’s HIV testing statute (§64-64);
  5. Working to increase Viral Hepatitis vaccination, testing, surveillance, and treatment services throughout the state;
  6. Helping to develop statewide elimination plans for HIV and Viral Hepatitis;
  7. Developing statewide working groups focused on SUD, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis;
  8. Establishing regular statewide stakeholder meetings to discuss strategies for addressing West Virginia’s most pressing public health needs.

Toni was joined by Ana Paula Duarte (Southern AIDS Coalition), Adrienne Simmons (National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable), Nicole Elinoff (National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors – NASTAD), and Mike Weir (NASTAD), all of whom presented on their respective areas of expertise.

The video of this first meeting has been made available on CEG’s YouTube channel (here), and the full meeting was streamed live on CEG’s Facebook page (here). You can also download the slides used during the meeting by clicking on their respective buttons.

Thank you, to everyone who attended this first meeting, and we look forward to working with our partners across West Virginia to build a stronger community, one project at a time.