Michael Mulligan

Brattleboro, VT

#1 Mar 27, 2014
Editor’s note: This is the last in a three-part series examining the impact of the coal industry on health, the environment and overall quality of life for the people of West Virginia. The first part looked at residents beginning to speak out in the aftermath of January’s chemical spill. Part 2 examined the environmental and employment effect of mountain top removal.

WAR, W.Va.— When Principal Florisha McGuire wants a clue about what’s going on in the homes of her students at Southside K–8 school, she often finds the answers on their feet.

“If you look at their little shoes, you can tell who has and who doesn’t,” McGuire said.“Their shoes give it away.”

But it’s their socks — more specifically, she said, if they have any — that often give away their parents’ neglect here in McDowell County, where at least one-third of residents are living below the poverty line and the money that many parents do have is spent on drugs.

McDowell’s children are the latest wave of victims as widespread addiction rips families apart — more misery for communities already suffering economic hardships from job losses in the coal industry.

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