West Virginia News

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►  Justice Urges Appalachian Coal Support of $4.5 Billion Yearly

Governor Jim Justice says his proposed homeland security incentive for eastern U.S. coal mines would cost about $4.5 billion annually.

The West Virginia governor, elected as a Democrat last year, presented the plan to the Trump administration before announcing his switch to rejoin the Republican Party earlier this month.

It calls for paying power companies to burn steam coal mined in northern and central Appalachia.

It’s intended to ensure that energy source continues in the face of difficult market forces and could keep the eastern power grid operating during any emergencies affecting supplies of natural gas or coal mined elsewhere.

Justice, whose family owns mines, says keeping eastern coalfields open is “critical to national security.“

He last week said the White House was receptive though he didn’t have a commitment.

►  West Virginia University Campaign Raises $1 Billion

West Virginia University’s major fundraising campaign, originally targeting $750 million, has topped $1.125 billion with an ongoing push in its final six months.

With state support declining, every public university in the country is having major financial challenges, WVU President Gordon Gee said.

The university’s tuition for 2017-2018 is up 5 percent from last year, though it remains relatively low at about $4,500 per semester for in-state undergraduates, and more than double that for out-of-staters among the more than 30,000 students.

Gee doubles as the university’s chief fundraiser, and fit the part as he described the campaign, called “State of Minds,” during an interview in his office overlooking the main campus, where the bespectacled educator wore brand-new blue and gold sneakers with the WVU logo along with his summer weight suit and signature bow tie.

“You have to talk about what you’re accomplishing, and more importantly, have people believe that this is the place that’s willing to invest in itself in terms of change and opportunity,” said Gee. “And then, have them understand that their money and their support is the difference between good and great.”

The campaign began in 2012, aiming to raise $750 million by December 2015. That was surpassed in 2014, prompting Gee to raise the goal to $1 billion and extend the deadline through this year. The WVU Foundation reported receiving nearly $140 million in new gifts and pledges in the fiscal year that ended June 30, its second-highest total.

Foundation officials say more than 60 percent of the money raised directly supports students, mostly through scholarships.

About two-thirds has come from more than 36,000 alumni; the rest from other individuals, foundations and businesses. Gee said the network of contacts he built over decades running universities also has helped him make new friends for WVU.

Because of this campaign, the university has been able to establish 774 scholarships, 55 faculty chairs and professorships, and 221 new funds to assist research, as well as fund competitive salaries to keep top people, Gee said.

A Utah native and former law professor known for his sometimes impolitic candor, the 73-year-old Gee signed a five-year contract with WVA last year. He also was WVU’s president from 1981 to 1985. In between, he led Ohio State University, the Ivy League’s Brown University, the University of Colorado and Vanderbilt University.

“The pathway to success is an educated citizenry,” he said as he acknowledged West Virginia’s economic struggles in a March address.

Unfortunately, he said the latest Pew research shows declining support for higher education, from about 85 percent four decades ago to 55 percent of Americans who now think higher education is important. Gee says it doesn’t help when schools try to keep out controversial ideas and their advocates.

“The coin of our realm is ideas, and the freedom to be able to talk about those ideas,” he said. Things such as “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” that put limits on speech, he said, “are really antithetical to the intellectual environment. And so we have been very clear that if a student group or anybody else invites a controversial speaker on the campus, that we will ensure that that speaker will be able to come on.”

In December, the university’s Republican student group invited Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who mocked and criticized America’s political left and singled out a WVU sociology professor for insults. Some other universities have blocked Yiannopoulos.

In 2014, the conservative Charles Koch Foundation and a WVU business school alumnus gave the university $5 million to establish the Center for Free Enterprise, led by two economics professors to examine the role of free societies in creating prosperity.

But that doesn’t mean the university is imposing a specific set of beliefs; if someone wanted to fund a center to examine the role of unfettered capitalism in creating harm, that also would be fine, Gee said.

“We accept money from a variety of sources as long as it’s money that’s not directed, as I say, toward a political catechism,” he said.

►  DHHR Announces More than $1.6 Million in Funding to Expand Substance Use Treatment and Services

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities (BBHHF) today announced $1.6 million in funding for three substance use disorder programs across the state.

The funding will support recommendations from the Governor’s Advisory Council on Substance Abuse (GACSA), which will soon become the advisory board for DHHR’s newly formed Office of Drug Control Policy under the leadership of Governor Jim Justice.  The GACSA, established by Executive Order 5-11 on September 06, 2011, has provided guidance to the Governor and recommended priorities addressing substance use in West Virginia.

“This is a critical component in West Virginia’s fight against the substance use epidemic and will empower communities to provide residents the help they need to lead drug-free lives,” said Bill J. Crouch, DHHR Cabinet Secretary.

This funding will assist communities by supporting residential treatment and recovery residence programs in West Virginia:

    •  Healthways, Inc. was awarded $700,000 in GACSA funds for a 10-bed Long-Term (30+ days) Residential Treatment program for women in Brooke County. 

      •  Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center was awarded $594,850 in GACSA funds for a six-bed Short-Term (28 days) Residential Treatment program for women in         Mercer County.

      •  The Partnership for African American Churches (PAAC) was awarded $398,875 in GACSA funds for a Recovery Residence for women in the Institute area of Kanawha County.

The $1.6 million will help fill a fraction of the funding gap after Governor Justice’s proposed bidders fee on road projects failed to pass during the West Virginia Legislative session. This package would have generated a pool of money for drug treatment.

“This is good news as it will directly help West Virginians who need our help,” said Governor Justice. “But we need significantly more funding for these kinds of programs to accommodate everyone in our state who is struggling with drugs. I won’t rest until the Legislature passes my plan to create a 5% successful bidders fee on road projects and use that money to combat the drug epidemic. We need more funding because a piecemeal approach won’t get it done.”

For more information regarding future funding opportunities and instructions for application, visit

►  Young adults to take on state’s issues at conference

When young people gather at Marshall University next month for the second Young WV Power Building Conference, they won’t be looking to identify problems.

The emphasis will be finding solutions for them, according to Matt Jarvis, Marshall University’s Student Body president.

Jarvis and other organizers of the conference recently spoke about the upcoming conference, which will run September 8-10 on Marshall’s campus. It is led and planned by young adults between the ages of 15 and 25 and gives participants an opportunity to network and give presentations on issues they feel should be addressed.

Last year’s conference, also held at Marshall, attracted about 140 participants who addressed topics such as voter engagement, racial justice, mental health and LGBT advocacy. Organizers hope to have 200 or more participants this year.

The conference is hosted by Our Children Our Future, a campaign to end childhood poverty in West Virginia. “They’re presenting on topics and issues that are close to their heart,” said Jennifer Wells, director of youth development and leadership for Our Children Our Future. “No limitations were placed on them as to what they were to present, as long as it was a concern and an issue that they wanted to work on in their school, in their community or in the state.”

Jarvis talked about the conference’s ability to show what the younger generation has to offer in spite of popular stereotypes about the upcoming generation of adults.

“I think the (article) I saw earlier was ‘Millennials are Killing Golf.’ Sorry - I guess, you know, that was one of our priorities,” Jarvis joked. “We get bogged down on things that really don’t matter. And I think it’s nice to come together to bring different ideas, different perspectives, and see what we can offer.”

Logan County resident Kiara Eldridge, who attended the inaugural conference last year, encourages other young adults to attend.

“It’s really important to be able to get together and share ideas, because it’s more important to work as a group instead of trying to take on all the problems by yourself,” Eldridge said. “Eventually you’re gonna get overwhelmed and you’re just gonna want to give up.”

Our Children Our Future and the Young WV Power Building Conference are unique in that they focus on young people’s voices and thoughts rather than just create a token place at the table for a young adult.

“Having a platform that people are actually listening to, they just grow and blossom. We saw that last year at the first conference,” Wells said. “Having that moment when they were actually heard - it was an amazing point, to see that they grew in so many ways.”

Wells encourages sponsors to step forward so that more students can attend.

“We have a number of students from the McDowell area that are wanting to come, but their funding was cut,” she said. “So they are struggling right now to get the funds to travel.”

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