Student heads to D.C. for advocacy summit

MORGANTOWN — At the height of West Virginia’s opioid crisis in 2016, one Mountain State resident was dying of a drug overdose every 10 hours.

One every 10 hours.

Somebody’s son, somebody’s daughter.

Somebody’s best friend, somebody’s sibling, somebody’s husband or wife.

Somebody’s mom or dad, whose young child would never know them.

The above, in particular, is why Brittany Smith became a student in the School of Public Health at WVU.

It’s why she’s traveling to Washington, D.C., this weekend. She’ll be among a group of kindred spirits advocating for the nation’s most vulnerable.

Smith will participate in the Advocacy Summit, which is presented annually by the outreach networks, Save the Children and Save the Children Action Network.
Around 200 people from across the U.S. are expected to attend the event, which runs through Tuesday.

While there, she’ll meet with Capitol Hill lawmakers and others. She’ll ask them to make investments in early childhood education here and around the globe.

Her world is West Virginia.
She grew up in Cannelton, an unincorporated town in rural Fayette County, a place —  as is the case of most counties in her home state — that is laboring under the long shadows of poverty and drug addiction.

And emotional and physical violence in the home targeted at children.

She wants to earn a doctorate, and after that, she wants to stay in her home state, so she can continue her research and her fight for well-being (clinical, and otherwise) of West Virginia’s youngsters.

Besides the overt effects of addiction and violence, there are the hidden stressors in the health of children who suffer from Adverse Childhood Experiences.
That’s a clinical term for the experiences which take in the prolonged emotional and physical trauma wrought by the weights of addiction, poverty or having one parent or both incarcerated.

Such experiences stunt emotional growth and can also cause physical maladies, she said.

Left unchecked, the cycle, Smith said, will remain just that.

“Then they grow up, and they do the same things, and we wonder why.”