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W.Va. DHHR Launches 'Kids Thrive' Children’s Mental Health Support Program

Maltreatment in childhood raises the risk of physical and mental health problems throughout life.
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Experts say mental health challenges weigh heavily on early grade school children who have parents with a substance use disorder.

During Gov. Jim Justice’s Monday coronavirus briefing, Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Secretary Bill Crouch talked about the new Kids Thrive collaborative. He said the initiative unites the DHHR’s Bureau of Behavioral Health, the Bureau for Social Services and the Bureau for Medical Services. Their website offers information about a holistic approach to improving children's mental health.

Crouch says Kids Thrive virtual sessions set for Tuesday mornings at noon from now thru mid-October will let families learn how they can receive services for children with serious emotional disorders.

“This has truly been a group effort by these three DHHR bureaus to get this project up and running,” Crouch said. “There is no cost to attend.”

Felicia Bush is CEO of Harmony Mental Health, a statewide children’s support organization. She said the Kids Thrive virtual sessions will help parents meet the major challenge of where to turn to get help for their kids

“It's important that parents understand that there should be no stigma associated with mental health or behavioral health issues,” Bush said. “Accessing services is the best thing that you can do for your child. The state's not interested in taking your child from you because you're struggling. We have more children to place than we have places to put them.”

Bush said mental health challenges weigh heavily on early grade school children who have parents with a substance use disorder.

“If the children don't have the type of response from parents that they need, and parents are addicted, it means that they're not giving the child the attention that they need,” Bush said. “And that affects the child for the rest of their life if there's no intervention. It's important to focus on those early childhood and elementary behaviors as they appear and get the services in there so that you can mitigate the trajectory along the way, and they don't have to experience the very, very negative impacts later on.”

Bush said another key factor in early childhood mental health challenges is grade school kids who have stayed home the past two years due to the pandemic.

“They may be coming into the third grade and never been in school before or had very limited experience in school,” Bush said. “The reality is that mental health issues start to present early, in early childhood.”

For more information on Kids Thrive and to register for the parent’s virtual resource sessions call 844-HELP-4-WV.

Government Reporter, ryohe@wvpublic.org, 304-634-8123

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