WHEELING - Education is at the root of any social issue, according to Debra Blaacker, in-person assistant for the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition.
The coalition's Our Children, Our Future Campaign addresses top social issues in the Mountain State within a wider context of child poverty.
"The larger goal is to end child poverty in West Virginia," said Blaacker. "It's a lofty goal, which is why we have sub-goals to work towards."
Ten top statewide priorities are listed in the campaign's 2014 platform. Included in that list are a three-part substance abuse plan, an increase in tobacco tax, and the creation of a Future Fund to provide a permanent source of wealth for West Virginia.
The campaign's 170-plus member coalition has already witnessed progress with some of its priorities. The West Virginia Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, recently passed by the West Virginia House, requires employers to supply fair accommodations for pregnant women. Our Children, Our Future views the trickle-down effect of poor working conditions on child poverty through a loss of family income when women face a conflict between work and childbearing.
Still a growing concern for West Virginia, prescription pill substance abuse has become a problem in the Northern Panhandle.
Children whose parents suffer from addiction to methamphetamine may be removed from their home or find themselves in a single-parent household without the resources that come from a stable income, said Blaacker. The campaign's three-part goal is to address the illegal manufacturing of pseudoephedrine to meth, provide adequate funding for Peer-Based Recovery Support through Medicaid Direct Reimbursment and remove barriers to employment and other services experienced by those in successful long-term recovery. It's all about removing negative behavior patterns, according to Blaacker.
"If people really care about these issues, the first step is learning what they can do (to act on their concerns)," said Blaacker, whose experience growing up in poverty makes the campaign's larger goal a personal one.
In her work, Blaacker is responsible for community outreach and education regarding the Affordable Care Act.
She believes there is a false stigma tied to the idea of receiving government assistance. For those who have paid taxes toward a program, receiving assistance is "seeing a return on investment."
Eligibility, plan options and information clarification, such as explanation of premiums and deductibles, are all discussion points for those who meet with her.
Stationed in the basement of the Ohio County Public Library, Blaacker invites those with questions or comments about the Our Children, Our Future Campaign to speak with her.
She can be contacted at (304) 906-1556 or firstname.lastname@example.org.