Research is an essential keystone to the foundation of Healthy Connections. Best practices for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome are currently established in communities experiencing far lower rates than those found in the Appalachia region.
As Healthy Connections builds a unique, community-based continuum of care that serves expectant mothers and their infants from pregnancy until kindergarten entry, such research will be uniquely possible. Despite the magnitude of the problem nationwide, little is known about the long-term outcomes for children exposed to opiates, especially when they are combined with other drugs. Also, research is limited with regard to how family systems respond to interventions. The Tri-State region in partnership with Marshall University is uniquely positioned to expand the existing base of research and become a nationally recognized center of excellence for the diagnosis and treatment of neonatal abstinence syndrome. Cabell County has already become a leader in the area due to the willingness of the community to be open about the issues and to invest resources in preventing further exacerbation of the problem. The next step is to engage in productive, process research that identifies the mechanisms that contribute to various outcomes associated with exposure to substances in pregnancy and the factors that bring about positive change and improve developmental outcomes. The outcomes of the research in Huntington can propel the nation towards fiscally responsible, truly-effective interventions, to stop the intergenerational effects of the substance use disorder epidemic.
Healthy Connections is eager and excited to establish all of the prongs of intervention and engagement in the Huntington community. We are pursuing multi-level funding opportunities at the local, state, and national, level to offer these services as fast as possible in hopes of improving our community quickly. We did not get here overnight, but through true-community-collaboration we can pave the road towards a healthier community.