Abused children in southwest Va. will soon have a stronger advocate.

A children’s advocacy center will be open in Richlands by Dec. 1. April Morefield will lead the program that will serve children in Tazewell, Russell and Buchanan Counties.

The program was introduced at press conferences in Lebanon and Tazewell Sept. 7. The center will offer forensic interviewers and nurses to collect physical and sexual data. The program will also offer counseling through Cumberland Mountain Community Services.

Sheriff’s offices, social services agencies and commonwealth’s attorney’s in all three counties were on hand to sign the memorandum of understanding to make the program official. A $200,000 grant from the Elgin Foundation was a key to the program.

The organization operates dental, reading and Bible programs in southwest Virginia schools. They recently added a protection piece and hired Paul Phillips to make the program go.

Phillips was a prosecuting attorney in Tennessee before joining Elgin.

He started the child advocacy centers in the five counties he served in Tennessee. “We just want to help and we are proud of all the work you’ve done I appreciate the support from the Commonwealth’s Attorneys without them the program cant’ work,’ Phillips said.

Clinch Valley Medical Center, Carilion Tazewell Community Hospital and Russell County Medical Center provided assistance to train the nurses and other medical assistants.

Morefield’s husband, Delegate Will Morefield said no child should ever have to endure abuse. He said the program is a perfect example of how public and private groups can work together for public good. He was joined in Russell County by Delegate Todd Pillion and State Senator Ben Chafin. The program will be based in the former parsonage of the First United Methodist Church in Richlands.

The house is currently being remodeled and furnished in preparation for the opening. Prior to this children were taken out of the area in cases of sexual assault.






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