Marshall plans Mental Health Matters forum

Staff Report

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall University will host the first forum in a series of statewide Mental Health Matters panel presentations to advocate for juvenile justice and a system of community-based mental health care for youth.

The forum will be 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, in the Memorial Student Center’s room BE5 on the Huntington campus.

Kim White, a member of the Mental Health Matters grassroots campaign and an assistant professor in the university’s Department of Social Work, said the forum will provide opportunities for the community to examine the high cost of youth incarceration and segregation and the possibilities extended to our state to change mindsets and gear policies toward prevention and early intervention services in the community and within school systems.

“Over the last 16 years, youth confinement has declined in almost every state except West Virginia, where the confinement rate has grown by almost 50 percent,” White said. “These topics are important because West Virginia has been tasked with creating community-based mental health services for children in our state as alternatives to youth incarceration or segregation in treatment facilities here or out-of-state.”

Marshall University offers a brand of “school-based mental health” that could be replicated statewide in our public schools as a part of a network of community-based mental services, according to White.

“We have excellent mental health resources (available) to students through the university’s Counseling Center,” White said. “By doing so, the university acknowledges and models the importance of strengthening the link between mental and behavioral health support and students’ academic success and overall well-being.”

White said she will serve as moderator of the event with the following panelists expected to attend:

  • Dr. Jim Harris, associate director of the WV Autism Training Center at Marshall University;
  • Karen Yost, CEO of Prestera Center;
  • Jackie Payne, state coordinator of WV Project AWARE at Marshall University;
  • Dr. Bob Rubenstein, counseling professor at Marshall University;
  • Sherri Woods, director of student services, Cabell County Schools;
  • Denny Dodson, deputy director of WV Juvenile Services;
  • Dr. Mariana Footo-Linz, chair of the Psychology Department at Marshall University;
  • Jason Spears, Cabell County Family Court judge.

In the first hour, panelists will be given 10 minutes to speak about their respective agencies and their role in the current network of service delivery. Panelists will be asked to identify at least one gap in the system, and propose one idea or solution to bridge that gap. Juvenile Justice Reform policies and laws will be discussed as they pertain to adjudicated youth or youth with mental and behavioral problems.

The forum is sponsored by Mental Health Matters of West Virginia; Sisters of St. Joseph Health and Wellness Foundation; American Civil Liberties Union of WV; Marshall University; National Association of Social Workers-WV; Our Children, Our Future Campaign; WV Center for Budget and Policy; and the American Friends Service Committee.

The Marshall University forum is the first in a series of forums hosted by Mental Health Matters across the state. The next forum will begin at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19, at the University of Charleston in Charleston.

For more information, visit the Mental Health Matters Facebook page under “Events” for a comprehensive list of upcoming locations, dates and times.

Two social work continuing education units will be offered for those attending the forum. To learn more about opportunities within Marshall University’s Department of Social Work, visit

Staff Report