The opioid epidemic has rapidly emerged as a substantial health crisis in West Virginia and has become one of the greatest issues facing educators in the state—especially special educators. As the Director of Preschool and Special Education Programs in Fayette County in West Virginia, Dr. Linda Palenchar shared this during last week’s Capitol Hill briefing launching the Committee on Education Funding’s (CEF) annual analysis of the President’s budget.
Dr. Palenchar went on to explain to the audience, made of up education advocates and congressional legislative assistants, that many children who have been exposed to opioids receive special education services. To better serve this population, funding for more comprehensive mental health services to mitigate the effects of neonatal abstinence syndrome, general exposure to drug abuse, and adverse childhood trauma is needed. “I see every day how special education and early childhood education makes a huge difference in the lives of students and families in West Virginia―it’s one of the best investments we can make. Federal funds help fill gaps in education funding from the state and localities, and the cuts in the President’s budget will make it that much harder to ensure that all children and youth arrive at school ready to learn,” said Dr. Palenchar.
In addition to her participation as a panelist on the CEF sponsored briefing, Dr. Palenchar, a member of the Council for Exceptional Children and its Division on Early Childhood, also met with her senator, Senator Joe Manchin (W. Va., D). During this meeting, she thanked Senator Manchin for his leadership nationally and in West Virginia to combat the opioid crisis as well as shared a copy of CEF’s annual budget analysis.
Each year, CEF prepares their annual analysis of the President’s budget and federal funding for education. To release the 2019 analysis, CEF sponsored a hill briefing on April 26 in which educators from around the nation presented how the proposed cuts in the budget would impact children and youth across the education continuum. The proposed fiscal year 2019 budget cuts more than $9 billion in federal appropriations. CEC opposes the proposed budget and is asking Congress for increased investments in special and gifted education and early intervention.