I attended the Center for the Advancement of Leadership Skills last week. The training was informative, interesting, and applicable. Sessions included The Four Cs of Group Dynamics, Relevant Leadership: Leading in These Times of Chaos, Influencing Effectively to Manage Difference, Public Service Leadership: Building a Culture of Excellence and Ethics, and Facing the Media. I also met other legislators from our southern states and learned about different pieces of legislation, issues, and accomplishments they experienced.
On the final night, our keynote Speaker was Missouri Senator Holly Thompson Rehder. Senator Rehder shared her life story written about in the book, Cinder Girl. She has a unique perspective on the poverty cycle in America having overcome the cycle herself and walked with her daughter to victory over opioid addiction. Holly is an inspiration and a beacon of hope for those in addiction. If she and her daughter can do it, others can too.
On Saturday, Will and I celebrated fall with a Soup Dinner at the Burnsville Fire Department. The soups were delicious, and the dinner well attended. I enjoyed talking with Burnsville residents and hearing about the community. Thank you to the organizers and the wonderful cooks.
During interim meetings, the Joint Committee on Children and Families met to examine vaccination laws and exemptions with medical professionals. Currently, West Virginia is now one of five states that permits medical exemptions from required school vaccinations. Over the previous five years, the State Bureau of Public Health had received 198 requests for medical vaccine exemptions. Others would like to see religious and philosophical exemptions added. Chairperson Mark Hunt (Kanawha County) announced there would be more discussion pertaining to the state’s vaccine laws.
The Joint Committee on Judiciary met and discussed child welfare in the Mountain State including issues of understaffing, under-trained, delayed response times, delayed referrals, and a lack of in-state facilities. The state has implemented adjustments in salaries and training, and out-of-state providers have expressed interest in providing severe cases with services. I received a letter from a constituent where he shared an article in the latest edition, the Child Maltreatment 2021 report. Statistics noted included:
- West Virginia has the longest response time from maltreatment reports and CPS investigations in the country at 174 hours per case. The national average is 83 hours. (page 14)
- West Virginia has the highest rate of children who receive an investigation or alternative response — three times the national average. (page 31)
- West Virginia has the highest rate of child victims in the country at 17 per 1,000 children, which is twice the national average. (page 35)
- West Virginia has the highest rate of first-time victims at 13.8 per 1,000 children. The national average is 5.7. (page 36)
West Virginia has got to do better, and we can do better. The Legislature can enact legislation, but we all can contribute to the wellbeing of our children.
“Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.”
As the conflict in the Middle East continues, I continue to pray for the innocent victims and for peace. Tensions are high in the United States with protests and demonstrations through the country. Sadly, we are seeing an increase in anti-Semitism in our cities and on college and university campuses. We must all stand against terrorism and support our allies.
I look forward to hearing from people in the district and hope to see you out and about enjoying all the great things our area has to offer. I can be contacted at lori.dittman@ wvhouse.gov or 304-701-8600.