KINGWOOD – Over the past decade, grandfamilies have become the hidden victims of the opioid crisis, according to Healthy Grandfamilies.
Healthy Grandfamilies is an initiative led by West Virginia State University (WVSU) in partnership with the WVSU Department of Social Work. The program provides information and resources to grandparents who are raising one or more grandchild.
Susie Huggins, director of Preston County After School Explorers, said two members of the WVUS Healthy Grandfamilies team will be at the Preston High library Feb. 18 to conduct training for employees of Preston County Schools and community agencies who provide services to families in the county.
“This training will empower the leadership in the county to structure a WVSU Healthy Grandfamilies Program coalition, which will enable them to offer the program to grandfamilies in Preston County,” Bonnie Dunn, WVSU Healthy Grandfamilies Program Director, said.
Dunn said West Virginia ranked fourth in the nation in 2015 in the number of children being raised by their grandparents. By 2017, the state was tied for second with Arkansas. Mississippi is No. 1.
Dunn said the Healthy Grandfamilies program has graduated 125 grandfamilies, all of whom said through a survey that the program helped and supported them in their efforts to care for their grandchildren.
“I was raised by my grandparents, and I know first hand what a program like this would have meant to them,” Dunn said.
According to Healthy Grandfamilies, these grandparents are likely to be female (74 percent), about 63 years old, not employed (71 percent); have low to medium incomes (80 percent), and are managing at least one chronic health condition.
Survey results also showed that grandchildren are likely to struggle with hyperactivity (19 percent), behavior problems (19 percent, obesity (18 percent), mental health issues (12 percent), and/or substance misuse (12 percent).
The average number of grandchildren per household was 1.82. A majority of grandparents (56.8 percent) have been caregivers for their grandchildren for three years or longer, the survey found.
Huggins said the Feb. 18 training opportunity is through the efforts of a WVU Public Health class that is studying the grandparenting and opioid situations. The students include Alison Stotlemyer, Michaela Stull and Miriam Rosenberg. Their instructor is Audra Hamrick.
ASE is also teaming with Preston County Senior Citizens for the project. Some project funds are being provided by the Caroline Haase Memorial Fund.
Lunch will be provided. Drinks and cookies for the training will be provided by the Preston County Family Resource Network.
Dunn said the training is sponsored by the WVU School of Public Health, the Preston County Board of Education and After School Explorers.
“In addition to the Preston High staff we would like to invite community partners to the training,” she said.
Grandfamilies training will be 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 18 at Preston High. To register email firstname.lastname@example.org or call or text to 304-288-5244 by Feb. 13.