Stollings
Platform

Dr. Ron Stollings, State Senator

“I truly believe the health of a population, education outcomes and the economy of a region are intricately linked."

What West Virginians are saying about Dr. Stollings

Coronavirus

“Many West Virginians are scared that they or one of their loved ones will get the virus. They are concerned about frontline workers not having the protective gear they need. Many of our residents own small businesses or have been laid off. They are concerned about being able to pay their bills and feed their families. Let’s keep doing what West Virginians do best—help our neighbors in times of uncertainty and need.”
Dr. Ron Stollings
state senator

The Problem

  • The global Coronavirus pandemic is a healthcare and economic crisis that is life changing. Repercussions will be felt for months, if not years, to come. 
  • Some of our small businesses including retail stores, restaurants and coffee shops will not survive the crisis.
  • Unemployment claims are up from 5,000 in a typical month to more than 90,000 in March, and still rising.
  • West Virginia families are struggling to provide basic necessities. Federal and state government needs to help.
  • Many of our healthcare professionals and first responders are exhausted and have little protective gear.
  • Many of our healthcare professionals and first responders are exhausted and have little protective gear.
  • Every child in West Virginia should have access to broadband and be able to continue his or her education during this time that schools are closed. Our teachers are working hard to do as much as they can. Access to broadband is a tool that they need.
  • Many children rely on meals provided at schools. Teachers, school service personnel and many volunteers are going “above and beyond” to make sure children do not go hungry.
  • Vulnerable seniors living in long term facilities are not able to visit with their loved ones.

The Solution

During the 2020 legislative session, Senator Stollings led the charge for the Legislature to set aside $2 million to help fund the state’s response to the Coronavirus. 

  • Ensure the care and well-being of our citizens is our first priority. That especially means our health care professionals and first responders.
  • Develop an aggressive response to the Coronavirus by educating state residents about the risk factors and how to protect themselves.
  • Continue ongoing diligence in social distancing.
  • Secure more protective gear, rapid point of care and antibody testing capabilities.
  • Utilize some federal stimulus relief funds to provide a pay raise for essential frontline workers from grocery store clerks and truck drivers to healthcare professionals and others for remaining at work during this crisis.
  • Administer more Coronavirus tests to accurately determine how big this crisis is in West Virginia.
  • Expand the use of telemedicine and tele mental health including audio only in special circumstances.
  • Return local health departments and Bureau for Public Health’s budgets to full funding. These budgets were cut by more than 25 percent in 2016 and left the state unprepared for the Coronavirus.
  • Provide funding to build public health infrastructure, conduct trainings and secure personal protective equipment to ensure a swift response to future crises.
  • Capitalize on the federal recovery package that Congress passed that includes small business forgivable loans, enhanced unemployment benefits and direct payments. Carefully review the federal legislation to see where additional state resources are needed to help individuals, families and small businesses recover from this crisis.
  • Be active in future federal stimulus packages that will authorize new programs and offer significant funding for workforce development, infrastructure, broadband expansion, renewed manufacturing, technology development, energy innovations across all sources, and enhanced research and development.
  • Help small businesses recover through grants, loans and support. The first dollars out of the federal package should go to small business, entrepreneurs and their employees. Small businesses can find information on the Facebook page, Stollings for West Virginia. All West Virginians should consider all buying local to support small businesses.
  • Rebuild our economy for the post COVID 19 era by investing in broadband and education.

Brad McElhinny “West Virginia unemployment filings blow past 90,000”, West Virginia MetroNews, 1 April, 2020

The Substance Use Disorder and Recovery Plan

During his 34 years as a primary care physician Senator Stollings has witnessed the daily struggles of West Virginians. He’s been on the front lines during the substance use crisis and sees how it is affecting our health, education system and our economy. Tackling the substance use crisis would be a priority of the Stollings’ administration.

West Virginia needs a comprehensive approach to tackling the substance use crisis. Senator Stollings has led the charge on legislative policies that has helped prevent, treat and expand recovery services. He has advocated for reintegration of individuals back into the workforce. Additionally, he has consulted with individuals in recovery, national experts in substance use treatment, fellow primary care professionals, behavioral health specialists, leaders in the faith community, individuals in law enforcement and the judicial system as well has leaders who help reintegrate individuals back into employment and a home. Here’s his plan:

“Until we get a handle on the substance use crisis our state can’t move forward. We must address the social determinants of health and the social determinants of education such as good paying jobs, affordable housing and an environment that encourages a healthy lifestyle. Employers need reliable drug-free employees. Educators go above and beyond in helping to meet the basic needs of our children for them to learn and thrive. We can and must do better!
Dr. Ron Stollings
state senator
  • Establish the Governor’s Office of Substance Use Disorder and Recovery Services to coordinate state efforts to manage the opioid and substance abuse crisis. The efforts need to be organized and managed from one high level to ensure better coordination of the Department of Health and Human Resources and the Bureau for Behavioral Health. In addition, West Virginia misses out of millions of federal dollars each year. Federal funding and settlement funds must be applied for and managed wisely.
  • Adopt a transformative approach to long term community-based treatment and recovery from all substance use disorders such as the Addiction Recovery Medical Home Model. This innovative approach includes changing the payment model from fee for service to a value-based model that focuses on recovery outcomes. Other key elements of the model include determining quality metrics, establishing an integrated care network, building care teams who focus on a wholistic recovery process and developing individualized evidence-based treatment and recovery plans.1
  • Maximize the millions of federal dollars available through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to integrate services into the primary healthcare system and work to eliminate health disparities.
  • Ensure coordination of the new Governor’s Office of Substance Use Disorder and Recovery Services and the new Governor’s Office of Grants and Partnerships to wisely use any state opioid lawsuit settlement dollars. According to the Alliance for Addiction Payment Reform, “The various state and local opioid lawsuits currently underway represent a unique opportunity for communities to fund the infrastructure that enables the implementation of sustainable and comprehensive programs that can provide services attuned to the chronic nature of opioid addiction and related conditions. We believe the opportunity before us is of profound importance and that thoughtful and careful allocation of opioid settlement funds can close key infrastructure gaps; gaps that the epidemic has both exposed and exacerbated.
  • Implement a statewide comprehensive recovery-oriented system of care such as the Huntington region’s Provider Response Organization for Addiction Care Treatment (PROACT). PROACT includes quick response teams, peer recovery programs, naloxone community training, drug and recovery courts, community-based services, help for infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and their mothers, and support from the faith community. The statewide system will also promote and encourage innovation and research like the efforts underway at the WVU Medicine’s Center for Hope and Healing, among others.
  • Support the reintegration of individuals into the community and workforce, by expanding innovative efforts such as “Reintegrate Appalachia” that incorporates employment, transportation, housing, certificates from community and technical colleges, personal development and accountability.
  • Continue to listen to folks on the front line of this crisis including our law enforcement officers, physicians, nurses, mental health care providers, social workers, fire-fighters and first responders. Many of our emergency medical services professionals are experiencing compassion fatigue.
  • Extend training and continuing education for primary care providers and educators. Practice “trauma informed care”. When it comes to patients, providers need to change the approach from “what’s wrong with you” to “what happened to you”. Healthcare professionals need to consider the root causes of stress, social isolation and hopelessness as well as adverse childhood experiences and how to compassionately care for individuals who have experienced trauma.
  • Invest in prevention, education and health promotion that builds resiliency in our children. They deserve a safe place to live, learn and thrive.
  • Address the social determinants of health such as the economy, education, housing and transportation. For West Virginia to move forward we must elevate the health and wellbeing of all our citizens.

Healthcare

“In my medical practice each day I see patients caring for their grandchildren. We need to support grand families. We need to make sure West Virginians have access to quality affordable health care, including oral health and mental health care. I know folks are struggling with being able to afford insulin and getting diabetic testing supplies.”
Dr. Ron Stollings
state senator

The Problem

  • West Virginians are concerned about the rising cost of healthcare.
  • Hospitals are closing, taking good paying jobs and critical health care services out of our communities as well as reducing the local tax base.
  • Prescription drug prices continue to rise.
  • The substance use crisis is tearing apart our families and communities. The crisis is overwhelming child protective services and the foster care system.
  • The public health infrastructure funding at the local, state and federal level has been cut.
  • The Coronavirus is crippling our economy and attacking our most vulnerable population.

The Solution

  • Ensure all West Virginians have access to affordable, quality healthcare including oral health and mental health services.
  • Re-evaluate the reimbursement funds that hospitals get through PEIA and Medicaid. Five hospitals in West Virginia have entered bankruptcy in the past six months. If we lose rural hospitals, we lose access to critical care, good-paying jobs and a significant tax base. We need to move away from the fee for service model of payment. We can keep hospitals open by increasing Medicaid reimbursement for hospitals to draw down three-to-one and nine-to-one federal matching funds. (For every dollar the state spends on Medicaid reimbursement the federal government will provide a match of three dollars. In the expanded Medicaid population for each dollar the state spends the federal government will provide the state an additional nine dollars to provide care for those individuals.)
  • Make sure West Virginians are aware of the services available at the 31 community-based and school-based health centers throughout the state. In addition to primary care, many of the centers provide behavioral health, oral health and pharmacy services. The centers also are training sites for future healthcare professionals.
  • Work to eliminate health disparities.
  • Enhance telehealth services which means expansion of reliable broadband.
  • Return funding that was cut for the public health system to better equip West Virginia for the next possible pandemic/virus crisis.
  • Make prescription drugs affordable.
  • Bring transparency to prescription drug prices. That’s why Senator Stollings championed HB 4583: “Pharmaceutical Transparency Oversight and Reporting Act” that passed during the recent legislative session.
  • Address the substance use crisis and support individuals in recovery.
  • Provide better coordination of services and funding for programs aimed at helping families affected by the substance use crisis. West Virginia is receiving tens of millions of dollars in federal funds and settlement monies from pharmaceutical companies yet, we have a disjointed response with very little coordination. Senator Stollings will establish the Governor’s Office of Substance Use Disorder and Recovery Services to coordinate state efforts to manage the opioid and substance use crisis. As a physician he knows the efforts need to be organized and managed from one high level location. Federal funding and settlement funds must be managed wisely.

Economy

“Having been a small business owner myself, I understand that not only do we need a statewide strategy for economic growth, but we also need strategies for economic development in various regions of our state. There are clear differences in terms of assets and what’s needed in a certain region.”

Dr. Ron Stollings, State Senator

“We all know our state’s most valuable resource is her people. And we need to keep our young people and recruit others with good paying jobs and a great quality of life. I’ve already established an advisory group of talented young individuals to offer innovative ideas on how to diversify our state and make it an attractive place to stay or to relocate here.”

Dr. Ron Stollings, State Senator

The Problem

  • Employers need an educated, skilled, drug-free workforce.
  • West Virginia ranks 45th in the United States in broadband access which includes both wired and wireless internet.
  • The state needs “shovel ready” sites for development. In other words, West Virginia needs commercial and industrial sites that have all the planning, zoning, surveys, title work, environmental studies, soils analysis and public infrastructure engineering completed and ready for development.
  • n addition to a statewide economic development strategy, the state needs regional plans to amplify economic opportunities.
  • A poll released April 3rd from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife reveals that about one in four (24%) small businesses already have shut down temporarily in response to COVID-19. Among those that have not, 40% say they are likely to close at least temporarily within the next two weeks, resulting in a total of 54% of all small businesses reporting that they have closed or expect to close in the next 14 days.
  • According to the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, West Virginia’s civilian labor force participation rate is nearly 54 percent. This means that out of all working-age West Virginians who are eligible for employment, just slightly over half are in the workforce.
  • AccordiThe state doesn’t even apply for millions of dollars of federal grant program funds.ng to the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, West Virginia’s civilian labor force participation rate is nearly 54 percent. This means that out of all working-age West Virginians who are eligible for employment, just slightly over half are in the workforce.

The Solution

  • Invest in infrastructure. According to national experts, the Coronavirus crisis is a “tipping point” in our society. To thrive economically in the post Coronavirus era West Virginia must invest in infrastructure. That means having reliable access to broadband and improving secondary roads throughout the state. The federal government is making millions of dollars available to states to recover from the Coronavirus. The Stollings administration will have experts who can apply for and manage grants and facilitate partnerships in order to use funds wisely.

Stollings’ economic plan, Thrive WV, will utilize these funds to make critical improvements. Every one of these investments in infrastructure will further his economic goals:

–Support entrepreneurs and small businesses,

–Enhance access to quality healthcare including the expanded use of telemedicine,

–Expand education programs and opportunities,

–Attract business, manufacturing and employees, and

–Attract retirees with good incomes to the state, particularly those who grew up or attended college here.

  • Ensure the availability of reliable broadband and technology throughout the state. As Governor, Stollings will appoint a Broadband and Technology Director to facilitate an “all hands-on deck” approach to working with local, state and federal organizations to attain the broadband/technology goals. Attention will be placed on the middle and last mile of broadband. Establishing the effectiveness of a Broadband/Wireless Cooperative for the entire state will be explored.
  • Invest in education including our educators and professionals who provide health, mental and social services to our children including our state’s 7,000 foster children.
  • Support entrepreneurialism, small businesses, technology development and university-based research that results in manufacturing industries through grants, incentives and tax breaks. Many times, these incentives are offered to large companies interested in relocating to West Virginia, but the state fails to support small businesses and entrepreneurs. Stollings will encourage and incentivize buying local and supporting small businesses.
  • Capitalize on high school and community college career and technical training, including those provided by two state-of-the-art Advanced Technology Centers that Senator Stollings helped authorize and fund (one in South Charleston led by BridgeValley CTC and Toyota investments, and the other in Fairmont led by Pierpont CTC and First Energy investments).
  • Expand and grow West Virginia’s high technology sector. Recently, Tech Connect West Virginia highlighted the challenges posed by cybersecurity threats while showcasing how the state’s tech industry is capitalizing on the incredible opportunities to grow West Virginia’s knowledge sector and digital economy. Experts state there are more than 1,000 job openings currently in the state in the cybersecurity field.
  • Capitalize on the state’s assets and low cost of living to attract individuals who work remotely to live here. If nothing else, this terrible Coronavirus has shown many employers that their organizations can operate with employees working remotely. To do so the state’s infrastructure must be improved. In addition to great infrastructure and an exceptional education system, the state needs to support its entertainment, culture and arts programs to enhance a good quality of life.
  • Create a robust year-round tourism industry that supports West Virginia businesses and attracts outside visitors. West Virginia has unmatched scenic beauty and incomparable venues for hiking, biking, camping, fly fishing, flat water paddling, whitewater rafting, skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing and zip lining. West Virginia can be the “adventure recreation and active outdoor lifestyle capital” of the eastern United States. By capitalizing on these assets, the state will attract tourists, new residents and have a healthier population.

As one example, the Betchel Summit Reserve in Fayette County is a more than $500 million asset that hosted 45,000 scouts from 150 counties during the World Scout Jamboree in 2019. The Reserve hosted the National Scout Jamboree in 2013 and 2017, with each bringing tens of thousands of scouts along with family members, sponsors and support personnel to the region, yielding an estimated economic impact of $76 million and more than $1 million in tax revenue.1  This high adventure site provides unique rock climbing, zip lining, mountain biking and of course whitewater rafting is nearby. Through partnerships with the Betchel Summit, The New River Gorge Trail Alliance and many other dedicated hospitality and tourism industry operators West Virginia can be the outdoor adventure capital of the east. According to a 2019 study, non-local climbers visiting the New River Gorge region to rock climb spent an estimated $12.1 million in a three-county region in 2018. Those expenditures supported an estimated 168 jobs and $6.3 million in wages.

In addition, a vibrant outdoor lifestyle and access to a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities can help attract entrepreneurs and tech talent who can work remotely from anywhere—if there is broader access to technology. 

  • Expand the state’s economy by better taking advantage of our rich natural resources. West Virginia is one of the richest energy states in the country and yet we act like we are the poorest. As a boom or bust state, we need to better manage and take advantage of the rich resources we have been given.
  • Diversify our economy by continuing to research opportunities for rare earth elements. Electric car motors, iPhones, military jet engines, batteries, and satellites all require rare earth elements to function. Even the United States Department of Defense relies on rare earth elements for manufacturing. Believe it or not West Virginia has enormous deposits of rare earth elements. We need to extract them and manufacture consumer electronics and other items here in the state.
  • Encourage institutions of higher education’s innovation efforts to take science from bench research to production of bio technologies here in West Virginia. For example, under the leadership of Dr. Ali Rezai the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute at WVU is doing pioneering work. Recently, Dr. Rezai and his team performed the first procedure in the world of a phase II trial using focused ultrasound to treat a patient with early stage Alzheimer’s by opening the blood brain barrier. As part of Thrive WV, Governor Stollings will strongly support innovation-based businesses and entrepreneurial activities.
  • Modify our tax laws to attract retirees with good incomes. Our state has numerous assets including a low cost of living, temperate climate with four seasons, beautiful scenery, forested wilderness with mountains, and lakes and rivers providing ample recreational opportunities. West Virginia is also strategically located near major population centers. As the huge demographic wave of retiring baby boomers is about to crest, we could add thousands of new residents by tweaking our tax laws to attract retirees with good incomes to move to our beautiful state.
  • Enhance opportunities for agriculture and forestry as these industries can be great economic drivers for the state. As Governor, Stollings will support and promote the production and direct sale of agricultural products to consumers through the expansion of farmers markets, “Farm to Table” and “Farm to School” initiatives to make fresh, healthy farm products available to all West Virginians. In addition, he will encourage development of a “Farm to Seniors” program by offering West Virginia grown fresh nutritious foods at senior centers and through home delivery. The Legislature recently mandated that more West Virginia farm products be purchased by our institutions such as schools, prisons and other parts of state government. Production should be increased to meet these needs. The state can capitalize on the growing market for organic foods and well as agritourism. Encouraging the growth of food in the state will help address food insecurity challenges as well. Family owned farms are the “heart and soul” of agriculture in West Virginia. Stollings will support farms, large and small, that produce feeder cattle, hay, poultry, eggs and produce, products that are so important to our economy and the livelihood of farm families. The state can bolster the agriculture economy by capitalizing on grant opportunities and training provided by the United States Department of Agriculture and university extension programs. Practices such as using high tunnels to expand the growing season will be encouraged. Finally, the Thrive WV economic development plan encourages community and technical colleges to help cultivate opportunities for specialty crop products such as industrial hemp oil and fiber and lavender essential oil.

Embrace Federal Government Opportunities

West Virginia is home to numerous federal agencies, from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Bureau of Fiscal Service. Yes, there is even a Coast Guard training center in landlocked West Virginia. The Federal Bureau of Investigations, National Energy Technology Laboratory, four Veterans hospitals, the Small Business Administration, Internal Revenue Service, Agricultural Research Service, Rural Utilities Service, Mine Safety and Occupational centers, are but a few of the prestigious federal operations that employ thousands of our citizens.

Each of these federal facilities is robustly funded and offers multiple federal contracting and subcontracting opportunities. West Virginia can and must embrace this partnership with the federal government and maximize the opportunities they offer.

Likewise, the federal government’s massive $4 trillion budget is chock full of diverse grant opportunities for the state and local governments, hospitals and medical centers, community health centers, universities, community and technical colleges, K-12 systems, libraries and museums, and non-profit organizations to pursue. The state’s track record of identifying, pursuing and winning these federal dollars is hit and miss (but mostly miss in many strategic areas).

The Solution

  • Establish the Governor’s Office of Grants and Partnerships to develop a comprehensive system to help state agency heads seamlessly review and assess the likelihood for success of federal opportunities. Part of the role of this office will be to convene a task force of representatives from each of the federal agencies with a facility in West Virginia to capitalize on their expertise in economic development, research and other critical areas. We can learn a lot from them. The Office’s findings and recommendations could also benefit other institutions and organizations throughout the state that depend upon federal support and partnership.
  • Maximize the federally funded Procurement Technical Assistance Centers in the Mountain State and encourage outreach, education and feedback among the Small Business Administration and federal agency procurement officers.
  • Welcome the input and support of the state’s many long-standing foundations that promote philanthropy, partnerships and volunteerism throughout West Virginia. Stollings would help these funders maximize their impacts on worthy projects and programs.
  • Pledge to work with the state’s Congressional delegation who deserves a partner in the Governor. Stollings will work collaboratively to make sure West Virginia is well represented in the nation’s capital when they need feedback, suggestions, witnesses and other support to boost the Mountain State’s priorities.

Investing in Education and Enabling our Children to Thrive

The Problem

  • The substance use crisis and the Coronavirus pandemic are making a dramatic impact on our families and children.
  • We have 10,000 homeless children, 7,000 foster children and 300 children who are missing.
  • So many of our children have adverse childhood experiences. We need to practice trauma informed education and trauma informed care. We need more “wrap around” social services.
  • Food and housing insecurity are prevalent across the state

The Solution

  • Invest in our teachers and education system. Specifically, West Virginia needs to support teachers and school service personnel and that means paying them a fair wage and providing them the support they need in the classrooms.
  • Work toward smaller class sizes, particularly in middle and high schools.
  • Encourage parental or guardian involvement as it is key to a child’s success in the classroom.
  • Ensure critical “wrap around” services provided by counselors, nurses and social workers are available. To obtain the "wrap around" services we must have a workforce. We should focus on career tracts and compensation that will produce nurses, social workers and counselors. Many of these services can be provided at school-based health clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers that get reimbursed by Medicaid and CHIP on a three-to-one or nine-to-one federal match.
  • Support and enhance the Birth to Three program for families in our state. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are critical to their success. Funding is available for the substance use crisis including federal and settlement dollars that should be used for the vast array of issues caused by drugs and other substances.
  • Continue quality publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs. This is the most important year in a child’s development. It’s an opportunity to nurture creativity and curiosity and provide a positive school environment.
  • Focus on literacy and create an environment in which all children can reach their full potential.
  • Better prepare graduates for the job market or post-secondary opportunities.
  • Continue to support initiatives such as West Virginia Invests program which the Legislature passed in 2019 to provide last tuition assistance to students of any age to attend community and technical colleges in the state. It has helped thousands more of the state’s residents to attend our nine community colleges – tuition-free.
  • Encourage public private partnerships to increase the number of national board-certified teachers in our classrooms.
  • Expand programs that work such as the Health Sciences and Technology Academy that empowers students to explore science and technology, develop leadership skills to problem solve and attend college tuition free.
  • Develop career pathways curriculum for middle school students geared toward college and workforce bound students.

Investing in Education and Enabling our Children to Thrive

“We need to invest in education and value our educators. Studies show having a certified teacher in the classroom, smaller class sizes and parental involvement will help improve education outcomes. Let’s implement best practices!

Dr. Ron Stollings, State Senator

“Our teachers and school service personnel have a heavy lift. Not only do they teach our children, but in many cases, they make sure the children are not hungry and that they have a caring adult in their life.”

Dr. Ron Stollings, State Senator

“More and more, your zip code determines if you will be successful in life. We need to give students in every area of our state the opportunity to be successful.”

Dr. Ron Stollings, State Senator 

“As part of the education reform legislation, we insisted that wrap around services to address social, emotional and mental health needed to be part of the legislation. So many times, it is not what happens in a student’s life from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. rather it is what happens between 3 p.m. and 7 a.m. that impacts their ability to learn.”

Dr. Ron Stollings, State Senator

“I have listened to and learned from our educators and school service personnel. As a senator, I have worked with and fought for policies that will promote student success in the classroom. We need to continue to listen to our educators. We need big ideas so that we can have the best education system in the country. Our children deserve nothing less!”

Dr. Ron Stollings, State Senator 

The Problem

  • The substance use crisis and the Coronavirus pandemic are making a dramatic impact on our families and children.
  • We have 10,000 homeless children, 7,000 foster children and 300 children who are missing.
  • So many of our children have adverse childhood experiences. We need to practice trauma informed education and trauma informed care. We need more “wrap around” social services.
  • Food and housing insecurity are prevalent across the state.

The Solution

  • Invest in our teachers and education system. Specifically, West Virginia needs to support teachers and school service personnel and that means paying them a fair wage and providing them the support they need in the classrooms.
  • Work toward smaller class sizes, particularly in middle and high schools.
  • Encourage parental or guardian involvement as it is key to a child’s success in the classroom.
  • Ensure critical “wrap around” services provided by counselors, nurses and social workers are available. To obtain the "wrap around" services we must have a workforce. We should focus on career tracts and compensation that will produce nurses, social workers and counselors. Many of these services can be provided at school-based health clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers that get reimbursed by Medicaid and CHIP on a three-to-one or nine-to-one federal match.
  • Support and enhance the Birth to Three program for families in our state. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are critical to their success. Funding is available for the substance use crisis including federal and settlement dollars that should be used for the vast array of issues caused by drugs and other substances.
  • Continue quality publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs. This is the most important year in a child’s development. It’s an opportunity to nurture creativity and curiosity and provide a positive school environment.
  • Focus on literacy and create an environment in which all children can reach their full potential.
  • Better prepare graduates for the job market or post-secondary opportunities.
  • Continue to support initiatives such as West Virginia Invests program which the Legislature passed in 2019 to provide last tuition assistance to students of any age to attend community and technical colleges in the state. It has helped thousands more of the state’s residents to attend our nine community colleges – tuition-free.
  • Encourage public private partnerships to increase the number of national board-certified teachers in our classrooms.
  • Expand programs that work such as the Health Sciences and Technology Academy that empowers students to explore science and technology, develop leadership skills to problem solve and attend college tuition free.
  • Develop career pathways curriculum for middle school students geared toward college and workforce bound students

Foster Care and Kinship Care

Establish the Governor’s Council on Children and Families to ensure each child reaches his or her full potential. The Council will improve services through coordination of public education, child welfare, healthcare (including oral and mental health), public health, food distribution, law enforcement and the judicial system as well as organizations in the private sector with the goal of assisting children and families. As part of the Governor’s Office, this Council will specifically address the needs of children and families impacted by the substance use crisis.

While the number of children in foster care across the country declines, the number of children in foster care in West Virginia continues to rise. The Governor’s Council on Children and Families will listen to and address the needs of children and families with efforts to include: 

  • Expand the training, programs and services for grandparents caring for grandchildren and other family members
  • Encourage and support new foster families.
  • Enhance in-home and community-based services for children and adults with special needs.
  • Continue to provide training in trauma informed care to address adverse childhood experiences
  • Establish metrics to track progress and identify areas of improvement.

The Problem

  • According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR), since 2014, our state has experienced an increase of 67 percent in the number of children taken into state custody, and 85 percent of these removals are due to drug use. West Virginia remains first in the nation for the percentage of children removed from their homes by the state.
  • Currently, there are about 7,233 children in state custody. That includes foster care, as well as other placements, such as emergency shelter or certified kinship care.
  • West Virginia has also seen a 22 percent increase in abuse and neglect referrals and a 34 percent increase in open Child Protective Services (CPS) cases over 3 years.
  • Homeless students account for nearly 4 percent of all students enrolled in this past school year in kindergarten through 12th grade in our public schools, according to data from the West Virginia Department of Education for the 2018-19 school year. There are 10,522 self-reported homeless students in our state. Again, the drug epidemic is considered a driving force in the increase in this number.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ranked West Virginia as number one in the country in terms of neonatal abstinence syndrome, with 33.4 per 1000 live births. This 3.4 percent compares to less than 1 percent nationwide.
  • Children affected by the drug epidemic are increasingly being raised by caregivers other than their parents. According to West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 22,000 children are living with a relative and have no parent present, 41,482 children under 18 live in homes where the head of the household is a relative other than a parent, and 35,393 of these children live with their grandparents.
  • According to the Legislative Auditor’s audit of the Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Children and Families’ (BCF) Child Protective Services (CPS), CPS did not meet the statutorily required time frame for investigating child abuse and neglect allegations in 50% of cases during federal fiscal year 2018 and employee retention and staffing levels have been significant issues for CPS and are causes for its inability to respond to reports of abuse and neglect timely and efficiently.

The Solution

  • Ensure that every child has a safe place to live and a caring adult in their life, especially for the many homeless children who go through our school system. We need to support grand families raising their grandchildren. Sadly, many children have experienced food insecurity and/or trauma. We need to adopt a trauma informed approach which means our approach needs to change from “what’s wrong with you” to “what happened to you”.
  • Provide additional funding and support for foster care families. There are more than 7,000 West Virginia children in the state system. We need to support the families with additional financial support as well as greater oversight of the program. The Legislature passed legislation that would increase funding by $16 million. More needs to be done to help this vulnerable population.
  • Increase child protective services workers’ starting salary to be more competitive to increase recruitment numbers.
  • Expand programs such as West Virginia State University’s “Healthy Grand families Project”
  • Address Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years) such as experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect; witnessing violence in the home; and having a family member attempt or die by suicide. Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding such as growing up in a household with substance misuse, mental health problems, or instability due to parental separation or incarceration of a parent, sibling, or other member of the household.

Adverse Childhood Experiences have been linked to risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, low life potential, and early death. As the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for these outcomes. We need to make sure our educators, counselors and healthcare professionals continue to participate in training related to adverse childhood experiences.

The presence of ACEs does not mean that a child will experience poor outcomes. However, children’s positive experiences or protective factors can prevent children from experiencing adversity and can protect against many of the negative health and life outcomes even after adversity has occurred. The Centers for Disease and Prevention has many evidenced based strategies to prevent ACES include: strengthen economic supports to families, promote social norms that protect against violence and adversity, ensure a strong start for children, and connect youth to caring adults and activities.

Population Decline

Thousands of residents have left the state in the last few years. We must invest in broadband in order to capitalize on our state’s assets and low cost of living to attract individuals who work remotely to live here. Additionally, a vibrant outdoor lifestyle and access to a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities can help attract and retain businesses and their employees.

Our state has numerous assets including a low cost of living, temperate climate with four seasons, beautiful scenery, mountains, lakes and rivers providing ample recreational opportunities. West Virginia is also strategically located near major population centers. As the huge demographic wave of retiring baby boomers is about to crest, we could add thousands of new residents by tweaking our tax laws to attract retirees with good incomes to move to our beautiful state.

Seniors

“Each day in my medical practice I hear what seniors want--High touch not high tech. Seniors want well-trained certified home health care providers, visiting nurse services, such as an RN who comes to your home after a hospitalization, home delivered meals, relief for caregiving families to help seniors and their caregivers, homemaker services where someone comes in to do light housekeeping or cleaning and an easy way for caregivers to find information and resources.” .
Dr. Ron Stollings
State Senator
“Caring for the elderly is near and dear to my heart. As I pursued my education at WVU, the Marshall University School of Medicine and in my residency at Wake Forest I always knew that I wanted to return home and care for patients in my hometown. We need more adult day care services and support groups like the programs that are available at the Raleigh County Commission on Aging and the Wirt County Senior Citizens Center.”
Dr. Ron Stollings
State Senator
“There are 44,000 seniors in our state at risk of hunger. They are not close to a grocery store. In fact, there are 122 communities where people live at least 20 miles from a full-service grocery store. Finally, there are 16,000 seniors who are facing hunger. They have no access to meals. "
Dr. Ron Stollings
State Senator

The Problem

  • The cost of prescription drugs is skyrocketing
  • Seniors deserve access to quality, affordable healthcare.
  • Many seniors want to age in place but lack services in their community to enable them to live at home.

The Solution

As an internal medicine physician Senator Stollings’ career has been devoted to caring for patients many of whom are seniors. He understands the challenges West Virginia families face. 

  • Continue to reduce the cap of out-of-pocket costs for life savings drugs such as insulin.
  • Provide access to reliable, affordable, high-speed broadband throughout the state.
  • Support family caregivers by:

–Ensuring the social model of adult day care is available to West Virginia seniors, and

–Enhancing funding to the Bureau of Senior Services Lighthouse and Family Alzheimer’s In-Home Respite (FAIR) programs.

  • Support seniors that want to age “in place” in their homes. Stollings supports enhancing resources, services and programs so that seniors can thrive in their homes and communities. There are many career opportunities for individuals to be community health workers and patient navigators.
  • Establish a “Farm to Seniors” program that encourages locally grown West Virginia fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat to be served at senior centers as well as through home delivered meals.
  • Increase the reimbursement rate for meals to serve hot meals daily to seniors.
  • Fight elder abuse and fraud by strengthening civil and criminal penalties for fraud and financial exploitation.

Veterans

“For 34 years it has been an honor for me to care for my patients, many of whom are veterans. They have had such an impact on my life. I’ve seen how they return to their communities and are true leaders. I can’t name all the veterans who have mentored me over the years. They have always made me want to be a better doctor, person and senator. We can not do enough for our veterans.”

Dr. Ron Stollings, State Senator

The Problem

  • West Virginia has a veteran population of nearly 127,000; about 8.8 percent of the state’s population. Of those veterans, over 38 percent, or over 48,600 have a disability; over 10 percent, or over 12,800 live at the poverty rate.
  • Qualifying veterans may be approved for federal Veterans Administration assistance in a wide variety of programs, each program tailored to meet a veteran’s special needs. At the same time, many veterans may also quality for federal veteran’s financial benefit assistance. Yet, many veterans or their surviving spouse may not be aware of these federal programs.

The Solution

  • Invest in Veteran Service Officers to help veterans with healthcare, disability and pension issues. A Veteran Service Officer training program will be implemented to make sure the officers develop exceptional capability to assist each veteran claimant with their Veteran’s Administration claim filing.
  • Revise state code so that Disabled American Veterans do not pay personal property tax.

Working Across the Aisle and Bringing People Together

I think Ron has a lot of the qualities to be a good Governor. He’s a very intelligent articulate guy who can bring people together in this sort of divisive time in politics. Ron’s the kind of guy who can bring both sides together to make things happen. Ron interacts with a lot of people on a daily basis. People of all walks of life. He understands the struggles and challenges that are facing people in this state. He is on the front lines of dealing with the opioid crisis, so he understands the challenges and issues facing us in that regard, too."
Corey Palumbo
State Senator
Whether it is the economy, education, healthcare or a pandemic, communication is critical. I’ll continue to build upon my relationships at the local, county and state level to tackle our greatest challenges in order to help our state thrive.”
Dr. Ron Stollings
State Senator