Bransfield said the state's Catholic hospitals in Wheeling, Huntington and Buckhannon provide charity care but don't get full reimbursement from the state and federal governments. That compromises their effectiveness, he said. A similar situation exists at Good Shepherd Nursing Home in Wheeling and at St. John's Home for Children of Wheeling, a group home for boys 8-14 with conduct, affective, attention-deficit and impulse-control disorders.
Educational performance in West Virginia is poor, too, with more than three-quarters of eighth-graders in public schools performing below grade in math, reading, science and writing, Bransfield said.
Turning that around will require bold initiatives like Reconnecting McDowell, a public-private venture focused on extreme challenges in the state's southernmost county.
"Such brave thinking should be echoed in other counties throughout the state," Bransfield says, "especially the southern coalfields not as wounded economically and socially as McDowell."
He also urged Catholics to support better funding for pre-kindergarten and in-home education such as the Birth-To-Three program.
"The entire community benefits when families in distress are aided," he said.
Bransfield became the eighth bishop of West Virginia in February 2005.
This is his fourth pastoral letter. Two others focused on health care and mental health, while the 2010 "On My Holy Mountain" missive addressed concerns about mine safety.