Special to HNN Provided by Marshall University
Marshall joins coalition to reopen child care center

The City of Huntington presented River Valley Child Development Services with a $35,210 grant as part of the Community Need Development Block Grant. The grant will be used to reopen the facility previously known as Enterprise Child Development Center on the West End of the city and will create a continuum of care for infants exposed to substances in utero, along with their mothers and families.


The center, which has been renamed River Valley CARES (Center for Addiction Research, Education and Support), is a child care center that will provide and improve on the best practices known for working with infants with neonatal substance exposure.

In addition to River Valley Child Development Services, a group of 20 organizations have come together under the title Healthy Connections to orchestrate the continuum of care and intensive services that will be offered at River Valley CARES. This coalition includes Marshall University, Marshall Health, Valley Health, Child Protective Services and many other organizations focused on children and community programing.

“By utilizing River Valley CARES as a training partner, we are building capacity for future educators, physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers and counselors to strengthen our local and statewide workforce going forward,” said Dr. Marianna Footo-Linz, Marshall University’s psychology department chair.

The developments made at the center, through in-depth research, will be shared with other child care providers in the state and nationwide to ensure all infants are receiving the necessary and appropriate interventions early in life.

“Our building will serve as the center to help serve so many needs of the babies and their families,” said Suzi Brodof, executive director of River Valley Child Development Services. “Integrating Marshall students and faculty, we will be able to model and disseminate best practices in caring for the infants with neonatal exposure.”

Brodof said students will get hands-on experience from professionals while engaging firsthand with struggling families. She said she hopes this will encourage students to be invested in the community.

Initial services to be offered to infants and families include Medication Assisted Treatment 12-step classes; individual, couple, and family therapy; Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT); nutrition, wellness, and finance classes; and a monthly inter-disciplinary medical clinical for infants and children.

By bringing multiple services under the same roof as child care, Brodof said she is optimistic River Valley CARES will reduce the barriers faced by families attempting to engage in recovery programing and improve access to more comprehensive substance use disorder treatment.

“The hope is to build healthy connections that allow the individuals and families time to grow together into stronger, healthier families and communities,” said Lyn O’Connell, clinical coordinator for MU-SBIRT (Screening, Brief Interventions and Referral for Treatment). “Marshall is committed to training students and the community on the most effective types of interventions and treatment for infants and their families who are struggling due to the substance abuse epidemic.”

This unique collaboration will allow Marshall and Marshall Health students, faculty and staff the opportunity to work with and train in evidence-based practices for infants, individuals and families struggling with substance use disorders and conduct the necessary research to identify what is most effective and why and then disseminate that to the larger community to hopefully reduce long-term negative consequences.

“The center will also become a research facility to help us create projects that will lead to a better understanding of the impacts of substance exposure in utero on development into the future,” said Linz.