Blog Posts > Summer Policy Institute Application Deadline Extended
April 25, 2024

Summer Policy Institute Application Deadline Extended

Summer Policy Institute 2024 is almost here!

SPI is a convening focused on policy, where participants learn the ins and outs of policy change through a research and data lens, as well as crucial skills rooted in community engagement and grassroots mobilization. Attendees will meet West Virginia leaders from government, non-profit advocacy, and grassroots organizing spaces to build relationships and networks.

Throughout the convening, participants work in small teams to identify and develop policy proposals to shape the future they want to see in the Mountain State, culminating in team “policy pitches” to community leaders. Sessions will equip participants to focus on defining the problem as an essential first step before progressing to proposing solutions. This will ensure that no fully finalized policy ideas emerge from SPI without authentic engagement–and ideally partnership–with the people most impacted.

Many SPI attendees have gone on to continue advocating for their policy ideas and to hold internships with West Virginia non-profits and in state government.

To learn more, visit our event page here.

To apply, please complete this Google Form and submit your brief letter of interest to The application deadline has been extended to May 31, 2024.

Medicaid Matters Webinar Wednesday, May 8

The state budget passed last month by the West Virginia legislature underfunded the Medicaid program by about $150 million. Because Medicaid is a federal-state matching program, that means the program could actually lose over $600 million next year, or about 12 percent of the Medicaid budget. If the funding is not restored, health providers could see their reimbursement rates cut, West Virginians could lose their health coverage, and services could be slashed. This would be devastating for West Virginia families and our health care system.

Join us for a free webinar on Wednesday, May 8 at 12pm to discuss what’s at stake and how you can get involved. Register here.

Take action now by sending your State Senators and Delegate an email urging them to fully fund Medicaid in the upcoming special session.

Learn more about Medicaid’s underfunding and the accompanying potential consequences in this recent article, featuring insight from WVCBP executive director, Kelly Allen.

No More Hidden Rules: WVCBP Introduces a New Resource for Greater Transparency in the Criminal Legal System

Each year, tens of thousands of people will enter a West Virginia jail or prison. Each day, officials within these facilities make decisions that shape the lives of each person incarcerated. A facility will decide when and how to provide medical care; whether to approve a spouse’s visitation request; if a person will be able to attend a parent’s funeral (albeit, in handcuffs and under guard).

These decisions shape the well-being of people in custody, as well as the vast community of loved ones who also find themselves at the mercy of correctional rules.

And yet these rules have historically been unavailable to the average West Virginian.

Like most government agencies, the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) has the authority to create their own policies and procedures. This administrative law covers every facet of an agency’s operations.  

But none of DCR’s approximately 200 policies and procedures appear on the DCR website – or any other government website. Instead, a curious citizen would need to make a public records request for a specific policy to DCR’s commissioner and wait five or more business days for a response. Or, if a citizen is lucky enough to be near Charleston, they can ask to view paper copies of the policies and procedures in the Secretary of State’s office.

This is not acceptable for any institution in the digital age – let alone one with so much power over people’s lives.

Therefore, as part of its effort to bring transparency to the criminal system, the WVCBP has published a new webpage including a list of active DCR policies. The list, developed through public records requests, will be updated monthly.

Rules should be accessible to the people to whom they are applied. We hope DCR will choose to make these rules publicly available on their own website.

If you would like to see such a change, or if you have any questions about the policies linked to above, DCR Commissioner William Marshall can be reached at

200k West Virginians Disenrolled from Medicaid and CHIP in Past Year, Despite Majority Remaining Eligible

Hundreds of thousands of West Virginians lost their Medicaid or CHIP health coverage over the past year as a result of pre-pandemic rules being reinstated. Alarmingly, nearly 80 percent of those who were removed from the programs remain eligible, but were disenrolled for purely procedural reasons. A recent article, featuring insight from WVCBP health and safety net policy analyst Rhonda Rogombe, provides further details. Excerpt below:

Over the past year, as the programs returned to pre-pandemic eligibility rules, more than 200,000 West Virginians were removed from the Medicaid or the Child Health Insurance Program, state data shows.

The vast majority of those disenrollments — 79% — were due to a procedural reason like failing to return a form re-enrolling in the program, according to an analysis of state data by the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University. The remaining 21% of those who lost coverage were determined to no longer meet the eligibility requirements for the programs. 

Medicaid is a state and federal program that provides health coverage to low-income West Virginians as well as pregnant women, those with a disability and others. For three years during the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to receive enhanced funding from the federal government, states were prohibited from removing people from the programs, even though they may no longer meet eligibility requirements for the programs.

Over those three years West Virginia’s Medicaid rolls grew from 30% — from 504,760 in March 2020 to 656,269 in December 2022, according to health officials. The state Bureau for Medical Services began reassessing its Medicaid and CHIP rolls and removing people who no longer met eligibility requirements or failed to return a re-enrollment form in April 2023. The year-long process, commonly referred to as “unwinding,” was expected to be completed in March.

Ellen Allen, executive director of the advocacy organization West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, called the number of total procedural disenrollments — 79% — “stunning” and called on health officials to improve the renewal process. 

“It is essential that these West Virginians get re-enrolled so they will have access to affordable health care,” Allen said. “The enrollment process should become as easy and seamless as possible to avoid future interruptions for children and families.”

Over the past year, the state removed approximately 46,000 children from CHIP and Medicaid because of a procedural issue. Another 12,000 were determined to be ineligible for one of the programs. 

Rhonda Rogombe, health and safety net policy analyst for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said the unwinding process was “unprecedented on the national level” and said states had little time to put together their unwinding process, leading to a lot of errors nationally. 

To retain more eligible people, Rogombe said, the state should increase the number of people it enrolls on an “ex parte” basis, meaning using income and tax data to verify a person’s income rather than having them complete a form. 

According to the analysis by the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University, 18% of West Virginians were re-enrolled on an ex-parte basis, compared with 41% renewed by filling out a form. 

Rogombe said she’s noticed an inverse relationship between the number of ex-parte renewals and the people who are denied for procedural reasons.

“The higher percentage of ex-parte renewals we have, the lower the procedural denial rate,” she said. “That’s because more people are being renewed before they have paperwork sent to them, therefore, they don’t really have the opportunity to not complete [the paperwork]. So I’d really like to see that continue to improve. It’s improved significantly in our state, but we have a ways to go with it.”

The state could also improve by making sure that recipients know where to go if they have problems and how to re-enroll in the program, she said. 

“They can [re-enroll] over the phone, they can do it via online, they can do it in person — making sure people are just connected to the resources available I think is a really big piece,” she said. Transparency through monthly data collection and sharing about the Medicaid renewals has been a big part of advocates knowing what’s going on and making recommendations for improvements, she said.

It’s unclear how many of the people removed from their health care but still eligible were re-enrolled in the programs and how many of them were enrolled in another type of health care coverage. The unwinding process likely contributed to an increased number of West Virginians enrolling in plans on the federal government’s health insurance marketplace, a policy analyst told West Virginia Watch earlier this year.    

The state Bureau for Medical Services has been criticized recently for leaving millions of dollars unspent that were supposed to provide services for people with disabilities. Medicaid faces a $147 million funding shortfall for fiscal year 2025. Gov. Jim Justice has said he would call a special legislative session sometime this spring to deal with lingering budget issues. 

Rogombe said Medicaid’s importance cannot be understated. 

“I hope that our legislative body and governor do the right thing and fully fund the program so it can continue to serve West Virginia families,” she said. 

Read the full article.

“Second Look” Policy an Effective and Compassionate Solution to Address WV’s Jail Overcrowding Crisis

During the 2024 West Virginia regular legislative session, the WVCBP and our partners advocated for a “Second Look” policy to be adopted to address the state’s ongoing jail overcrowding crisis. While the policy was not advanced this year, we are hopeful that lawmakers will consider and pass the policy next year. A recent article, featuring insight from WVCBP criminal legal policy analyst Sara Whitaker, provides more details. Excerpt below:

Amid overcrowding and unsafe conditions in West Virginia jails, state lawmakers introduced bills that would allow judges to take a ‘second look’ at an individual’s original sentence.

If a court determines they no longer pose a threat to the community, the person could be released, placed on supervision, or receive a shortened sentence.

Sara Whitaker – criminal legal policy analyst with the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy – said West Virginia is one of the few states that has seen its prison population balloon over the past decade, despite declining crime.

She noted that as of last month, more than 500 people in the state were in jail awaiting transfer to a prison.

“As a result, eight out of 10 of the regional jails in the state were beyond capacity,” said Whitaker, “with hundreds of people assigned to sleeping on the floor.”

The bills failed to advance this session, but Whitaker said advocates are hopeful lawmakers will consider them next year.

The state’s jails remain among the deadliest in the country, with at least 91 people losing their lives while incarcerated in the past few years.

According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, jail bills cost counties $45 million in 2022.

Nationwide, long sentences have led to growth in the number of older people behind bars.

Whitaker pointed out that ‘Second Look’ legislation could help the state avoid turning its prisons into nursing homes, and said the number of elderly people in prison has tripled in the past two decades.

“In 2019, West Virginia had to open a dementia unit in one of its prisons,” said Whitaker. “There are hospice units across multiple prisons. And experts predict that this is just only going to get worse.”

Whitaker added that ‘Second Look’ policies also offer a way to correct past racial injustice in the criminal legal system.

Black people incarcerated in West Virginia are four times more likely than white people to be serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole, and five times as likely to be serving a life-without-parole sentence.

Read the full article.

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