top of page

Why Appalachian Ohio?

Appalachian Ohio's kids need concentrated support and investment

If the Appalachian counties of Ohio were combined into a separate state, it would be the second-most economically distressed state in the country, according to a 2019 study by the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health. And this economic disparity takes a toll. The children of Appalachian Ohio suffer the most when state budgets are cut, or the economy enters a downturn. Less economic diversity, a smaller and poorer tax base, and the brain drain phenomenon are factors that, when compounded, make our communities less resilient in the midst of crisis. 

Appalachian Ohio has an acute need for concentrated support and investment. In 2016, the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio (CDF-Ohio) published a report titled, Ohio’s Appalachian Children at a Crossroads: A Roadmap for Action. The report highlights the measurable disparities in the health and well-being of Appalachian Ohio's youth when compared to the rest of the state of Ohio.


Ohio cannot, and should not, leave these children behind. Read on to learn more.


Concentrated Poverty


In the State of Ohio, the top twelve counties with the highest rates of child poverty in the state are located in Appalachia. Child poverty increased in every Appalachian county from 2000 to 2013, and nearly one in three Appalachian children under the age of six live below the poverty level.


Poorer communities have fewer dollars to leverage into their school systems, and as a result, this region’s schools struggle to provide the learning options that all children deserve. Despite the region's school systems being poorer on average, our schools spend more on transportation across winding rural roads, addressing the high rate of trauma and abuse among their students, and providing food and clothing to low-income children. 


Drug Exposure


Babies born in Appalachian Ohio are almost twice as likely as the Ohio average to be diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. In fact, Nine of the top 10 counties with the highest rates of NAS in Ohio are in Appalachia. Babies with NAS often require longer hospital stays than other newborns so that they can receive treatment for withdrawal, which in turn increases hospitalization costs. Statewide in 2013, the average inpatient charge was four times higher for NAS infants, and their hospital stays were four times longer than for all Ohio infants. 

Beyond neonatal exposure, being born into and raised in drug-involved families have impacts far into adulthood for Appalachian children. When parents overdose or go to prison, children are left being raised by grandparents or other caregivers; often moving from one living arrangement to another. These children and teenagers are hard to track and support. Students who are raised by grandparents may also experience a lack of technological support at home, making it difficult for them to keep up in an increasingly technology driven world.


Acute Care Access

Ohio has six children’s hospitals, but none are located in Appalachia. Those who have the resources often travel to metropolitan centers such as Columbus or Cincinnati for care. All but four Appalachian counties (Clermont, Jefferson, Mahoning, and Trumbull) were designated as Mental Health Professional Shortage Areas in 2015. The Appalachian Children Coalition has identified the lack of pediatric crisis stabilization units for children in need of care as a primary issue of concern for our members. 

Young girl gets her temperature checked.


The Shortage of Child Behavioral Health Specialists

Local schools and behavioral health organizations struggle to hire behavioral health specialists qualified to address the needs of children facing behavioral health challenges and crises. Children in need of behavioral health support often go without. State and federal policymakers must allocate the resources necessary for rural, Appalachian schools and behavioral health providers to hire and retain these vital specialists. They must also do more to incentivize the education, recruitment, and placement of behavioral health specialists in Southeast Ohio. The Appalachian Children Coalition has identified the shortage of child behavioral health specialists as a primary issue of concern for our members.

Young girl shows confusion while working on laptop.


Lack of Broadband Access

The chasm that already existed between rural and metropolitan communities has widened because of rural America’s lack of access to this fundamental technology. On average across Appalachian Ohio, broadband is far, far less available than for the rest of the State of Ohio. And this broadband shortage disproportionately impacts children, who cannot travel on their own to access the internet.


From e-school to telemedicine, the broadband divide is no longer tolerable in light of the impact of COVID-19, and state and federal policy makers must act now to rectify this wrong. The Appalachian Children Coalition has identified the broadband gap as a primary issue of concern for our members.

Watch our Board Member, Robin Burrow, speak on a panel with the Columbus Metropolitan Club about Bridging the Digital Divide. 


The Philanthropy Gap

Relative to the State of Ohio on average, a significant gap exists in the philanthropic resources available for Appalachian causes. According to 2015 research from the Foundation Center and the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, this region has only $762 philanthropic dollars per capita versus $7,437 per capita outside the area. The ten-fold difference between philanthropic resources in Appalachian Ohio when compared to the rest of the State of Ohio manifests in a lack of after school programming for kids, college prep for youth, and other, much-needed children’s programs.

Graph showing that Ohioans outside our region get $7,437 philanthropic dollars per capita while Appalachian Ohioans get $762 philanthropic dollars per capita

Source: Foundation Center 2015, used with permission from Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.

bottom of page