UPDATE: First Lady Melania Trump visits Huntington

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HUNTINGTON. W.Va. (CNN/WSAZ) -- UPDATE 10/10/17 @ 6 p.m.
First lady Melania Trump was in Tuesday meeting with leaders of Lily's Place in Huntington.

Lily's Place is an infant recovery center, treating babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

Rebecca Crowder, executive director of Lily's Place, called the visit encouraging.

"Just like she did in D.C., she wanted to hear, she wanted to learn and she really wanted to be educated about what we're doing and why we're doing it," Crowder said.

The visit comes less than two weeks after Crowder was in D.C. for a round table discussion with the first lady on drug addiction. Crowder says she has been in contact with the White House since that visit.

She says believes Mrs.Trump may not know everything about the most innocent victims of the drug epidemic but says that "she wants to know" and Crowder believes that's really important.

"We need to open the conversation to teach children and young mothers how it's dangerous to use drugs and to get addicted to it, it's from the childhood up," Melania Trump said in the meeting.

No promises were made, according to Crowder, but there are plans to keep in touch and she believes this visit will help the first lady develop a plan.

"In the long run, I think we're going to see that it's going to make a difference because she is in a position where she can do something, she can help, it may be one place at a time, it may be on a larger scale, I don't know but she's in a position to where she has the ear of people who can make change, who can make differences and I think that she really wants to do that," Crowder said. "I think she really wants to help."

It was described as an emotional visit for Mrs. Trump.

"She interacted with the babies, she held one of our graduates, she was really just taken aback," Crowder said. "It's one thing to hear about it, it's another thing to see it and she is, very personable and you can tell she cares, she shows that."

The First Lady held Lily's Place graduate, Kyrie Hickey.

The 9-month-old's mother, Rachael Kinder, was recovering from a heroin addiction through methadone treatment when she became pregnant.

Kyrie was born with NAS and within six days, admitted to Lily's Place.

"She played with him, she was so sweet and loved him, so down to earth," Kinder said. "It made me feel really good. It seemed like she really did care about our city and the epidemic and she seemed to really care about how I was doing and it made me feel really happy and excited."

Kinder says it was encouraging to hear the first lady's interest in knowing how she and her son were doing, how Lily's Place helped them and how the center continues to help.

"I'm hoping that they'll start to open more places like this and some of the stigma will go away so mothers aren't scared to ask for help because a lot of times if they don't tell their doctor, the doctor doesn't know that their using," Kinder said. "The babies go home before they have withdrawal so I'm hoping that it (the visit) will help with that."

Lily's Place is the first NAS facility of its' kind and Crowder also hopes more facilities will open.

"Whether it directly helps Lily's Place or it helps others do what we're trying to do, that is not the point, as long as someone is being helped in all of this," Crowder said.

Crowder says facilities like Lily's Place still face challenges like Medicaid recognition and funding. She says right now, 40 percent of the budget is funded through donations and grant writing.



UPDATE 10/10/17 @ 12:15 p.m.
First Lady Melania Trump is in Huntington Tuesday meeting with representatives of Lily's Place.

The First Lady arrived at Huntington Tri-State Airport just after 11 o'clock Tuesday morning.

She is expected to spend several hours talking with the staff about the drug epidemic our area is experiencing.

It's the First Lady's first solo trip to the Mountain State.

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY 10/9/17
First lady Melania Trump will embark on a visit Tuesday morning to Huntington, West Virginia, with the specific purpose of visiting Lily's Place, an infant recovery center that helps families dealing with addiction.

It will be the first lady's first visit to a drug treatment center since her husband took office.

WSAZ confirmed the visit that was first reported by CNN.

Rep. Evan Jenkins (R), who will tour with the First Lady, says her trip will last for several hours in the late morning, early afternoon time slot. He tells us the First Lady will fly into Tri-State Airport Tuesday morning.

Lily's Place offers medical care to infants born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, which occurs when newborns have been exposed to addictive substances during a mother's pregnancy.

The center also offers support, education, and counseling services to families and caregivers, per its website.

"To help babies born addicted truly succeed, we must help their parents succeed," the first lady's communications director Stephanie Grisham told CNN when asked why Trump opted to spotlight infants.

Every 25 minutes, a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a statistic described as a "dramatic increase."

The devastating opioid epidemic in the United States has only worsened in recent years, something President Donald Trump vowed to address on the campaign trail.

In March, the President signed an executive order establishing the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction, chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. And in August, he instructed the administration "to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis."

A White House spokesman told CNN the status of the formal national emergency declaration is still in flux.

"The President's policy advisers are working through the details with all of the relevant components and agencies. Right now these actions are undergoing a legal review," he said.



 
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