Prenatal Substance Abuse in the New River Valley - Fact Sheet

Assessing the Problem

The Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance (VTIPG) and community partners have received a CAPE II grant to develop an early warning system for prenatal substance abuse and NAS in the NRV. The project team is working closely with the regional Departments of Health, Community Services, Social Services, the NRV Regional Commission, and local medical providers to identify data and other resources to inform strategies for the strengthening of a continuum of care to reduce the incidence of prenatal substance abuse and NAS. While we are still pursuing additional data, initial statistics on substance abuse rates for women of childbearing age help identify priority areas of focus.

Next Steps

We have an opportunity to engage with our NRV community physicians and medical professionals, starting with the CAPE II project team providing updates on data indicators and ongoing efforts in our region and state to address substance abuse and its impact on children and families. We want to support your practice’s efforts and receive input from physicians on their experiences with prenatal substance abuse cases in the NRV and generate ideas how to more fully address the problem. As a first step, we hope to gain a better understanding of current screening practices and the strengths and gaps in referral networks and prevention efforts. We propose creating a collaborative workgroup to build upon these findings to develop appropriate early referral methods and treatment resources for the NRV.  For additional information, contact

Mary Beth Dunkenberger, M.B.A.
Senior Program Director, VTIPG

Full Fact Sheet:prenatal_sa_in_the_new_river_valley_provider_info_sheet_9_14_15_pdf.pdf



Virginia Quality Professional Development calendar released for 2015-2016

Smart Beginnings NRV has released its professional development calendar for 2015-16.  It includes a rich array of professional development opportunities for early eaducators in the region.  There will be a Director's Learning Community, multi-session study groups, evening workshops, full-day confernces and more.  We also work hard to bring in additional trainings from outside providers.  Contact Kim Thomoson at to be added to the email list for registration announcements.


Laura Guilliams joins Smart Beginnings NRV Board of Directors

Laura Guilliams is Executive Director of NRV CARES.  A crisis intervention professional for more than ten years, Laura is Executive Director of NRV CARES where she works with an incredible staff to provide child advocacy, resources, education, and services to children and families across the New River Valley. Additionally, Laura serves on the Board of Directors for Smart Beginnings NRV, the DePaul Community Resources Community Advisory Board, the Western Region Child Fatality Review Team, and the Giles County-Pulaski County Community Policy Management Team.

Laura earned her B.S. in Communication from Radford University in 2001 where she first developed her interest in non-profit agencies and higher education. Upon graduation, Laura went on to develop skills in public relations, marketing, donor development, and non-profit program administration as well as human development and crisis intervention.

Shortly after entering the workforce, Laura received her M.A. in Educational Leadership from the University of Central Florida in 2004 where she further expanded on her experience in human development, specifically with college students and teenagers. After graduation, Laura continued working with college students in several higher education institutions before entering the non-profit sector as an advocate for sexual and domestic violence victims and victims of child abuse. Prior to her current role with NRV CARES, Laura worked with hundreds of children as a child forensic interviewer and multidisciplinary team (MDT) facilitator for the NRV.

Laura has developed several training programs delivered to thousands of students, community members, and allied professionals throughout the NRV and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Laura is a veteran public speaker and facilitator and continues to share her passion for ending child abuse in our communities through community education, advocacy, and prevention programming.

As a member of the board for Smart Beginnings NRV, Laura works with local agencies, businesses, government leaders, and programs to foster a community dedicated to protecting children and strengthening families through early childhood intervention and education.

2016 AmeriCorp Member Taylor Wills

Taylor Wills I am a senior with a dual degree in human resource management and marketing and a minor in history. I love working with the Smart Beginnings program, because I am extremely passionate about improving child literacy in the New River Valley, and ultimately empowering the youth. I am so excited and honored to be a part of this program and cannot wait to see it grow and develop over the course of the year. In the past I have worked and mentored children in other capacities, including, coaching youth soccer, tutoring, and working with a child care center.


2016 AmeriCorp Member Rachel Morgante-Richmeier

Rachel As a public school teacher I have seen the impact of early literacy programs have had on students. This is a great venue to broaden my experience and learn hands-on early literacy activities as well as working with the younger aged population. I think National Service also mirrors Ut Proism that is an essential component to being a VT alum. I'm looking forward to gaining many new relationships and new knowledge in the area of education.


2016 AmeriCorp Member Melanie Hart

Melanie Hart Melanie graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Electrical Engineering in 1991 and worked for ten years as a Project Engineer with Celanese. She is now the mother of three wonderful children and has volunteered in Giles County Schools, with the local American Heritage Girls troop, and with Life Pointe Church. She grew up in Giles County and is now working to expand the Reading Hour program from Montgomery County into the preschools and childcare centers throughout Giles. She is looking forward to building relationships between local volunteers and her community's 3- and 4-year-olds, and seeing the awesome impact this program can have on the children's enthusiasm and readiness to read as they prepare to enter kindergarten.


2016 AmeriCorp Member Julia Saunders

Julia Saunders Hi! I’m Julia Saunders and I am currently a junior at Virginia Tech studying Human Development. I heard about the AmeriCorps Smart Beginnings program through a few of my sorority sisters, and I knew that I had to get involved because education and literacy are two of my passions. I have wanted to get involved in a national service program for a while, and I knew that this would be a great opportunity because I want to teach early elementary school in the future. I am so excited to plan crafts, games, and activities for the children to have fun while they learn. I cannot wait to see the excitement in the children’s faces when they learn something new and become passionate about books with their reading buddies.


2016 AmeriCorp Member Katelynn Cioffi

Katelynn Cioffi Hi! My name is Katelynn Cioffi and I am a sophomore at Virginia Tech studying Human Development. I love to travel to other countries, play soccer, and work with children. I am passionate about both early childhood development and serving my community. I am excited to be partnering with both Smart Beginnings and VT Engage as an AmeriCorps member to focus on local children’s literacy. I believe that interactive learning is the best way to teach children. By organizing literacy crafts and reading one on one to children I hope to spark a love for learning and creativity in the children’s eyes.


Dr. Molly O'Dell Joins Smart Beginnings NRV Board of Directors

Dr. Molly O'Dell Molly is a family physician and writer. She received her B.S. from Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia and her M.D. from the Medical College of Virginia. She has practiced medicine for over 35 years and has served patients as a solo practitioner, in group practice, corporate medicine and as health officer for the Virginia Department of Health where she currently serves as medical director for the New River Health District. She received her MFA from the University of Nebraska, is a published author and enjoys facilitating the growth and development of others through patient care, speaking or workshops. Molly lives in southwest Virginia. 

Since the number one and two new-hire deficits (regardless of educational attainment) in America are reading and writing, Molly believes working collaboratively through early childhood strategies may be the only way to curb this unfortunate statistic.


Rob Graham joins Smart Beginnings NRV Board of Directors

Rob Graham is in his first year as superintendent of the Radford City School System. He earned his B.S. from Emory and Henry, M.S. from George Mason University, Ed.S from the University of Virginia, and currently is working on his Ed.D. at East Tennessee State University. In 2003, Rob left the Fairfax County Public School Division in order to return to work in his hometown, serving as principal of McHarg Elementary School before moving to Central Office as Assistant Superintendent during the past five years. Rob is currently writing his doctoral dissertation on the impact of a reverse inclusion preschool program and kindergarten readiness as he has seen the benefits of this type of program which was created while he was principal at McHarg. He is also interested in trying to find ways to provide preschool opportunities to interested families of four year old students who were not selected are were unable to be a part of one of the established preschool programs in Radford.