By The Associated Press
CHARLESTON — The American Diabetes Association plans to re-establish a presence in West Virginia, a move that is welcomed by health care officials who are fighting the disease with limited resources.
The association closed its office in the state in 2009 after fundraising contributions didn’t meet its goals.
Division vice president Lew Bartfield told the Charleston Gazette that the association will return to the state in early 2013. This time, the group will have a mission-service agenda instead of a fundraising agenda.
“That’s great news, welcome and timely,” said Perry Bryant, director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care. “The ADA could have an enormous impact in West Virginia with all the public education they’re capable of doing.”
An estimated 250,000 West Virginians have diabetes and the state has one of the highest rates of the disease in the nation.
“We’ll take all the help we can get,” said Krista Farley, education director for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
With limited resources, Farley is working to establish diabetes education programs in nine coalfield counties as part of the state’s Community Transformation Grant program. Similar efforts are under way in all 55 counties.
“If we can add the ADA, with all its resources, to the team, that would be tremendous,” Farley said.
“It’s great to see an association like this decide to concentrate on its mission,” she said. “These organizations sometimes get so caught up in fundraising, their purpose gets lost. We very much welcome a mission-driven organization that recognizes what’s happening to people here and knows the impact they can have on our state.”
Jennifer Honnaker, a longtime Huntington ADA volunteer, chaired the group’s state leadership council when the West Virginia closed. She said the association could provide education programs for children as well as adults.
“West Virginia is one of the battleground states as far as health issues go,” she said. “For the American Diabetes Association not to have a physical presence is a real loss to us and just embarrassing to the organization.”
The association has served West Virginia from Lexington, Ky., for the past four years.
“We have had a person in Lexington who was supposed to service West Virginia, but there really has not been any service,” Bartfield said.
“We need to do something of substance in West Virginia,” he said.
“We certainly have missed the presence of a physical ADA office here in West Virginia, and we would love to work with them,” said Gina Wood, manager of the state’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Program.