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  • Suicides and drug overdoses are two reasons for a continuing decrease in how long Americans are expected to live.
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  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported recently that there were more than 2.8 million deaths in the United States in 2017.
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  • Of those, 47,000 were suicides and 70,000 were drug overdoses.
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  • If you want to understand why life expectancy is decreasing in America, the state of West Virginia may offer some answers.
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  • Maggie Hill has lived in West Virginia for all of her life.
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  • Hill, who is 67, told the Associated Press about the many deaths in her family.
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  • An older brother drowned in a flood. A sister died in a house fire.
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  • Two siblings, both who smoked, died of lung cancer.
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  • Two others died at birth.
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  • Her first husband died of heart failure.
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  • Then there were the suicides. Two of her three sons shot themselves to death.
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  • Her second husband killed himself one Sunday morning while she was still in bed.
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  • "I don't think people have a lot to live for," hill said. "I really and truly don't see things getting better."
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  • Dr. Michael Brumage is a public health expert at West Virginia University.
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  • He used to run the health department in Charleston, West Virginia.
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  • He said, "It seems that the worst outcomes happen here first."
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  • Among the 50 American states, West Virginia has the second- lowest life expectancy, behind only Mississippi.
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  • Hawaii has the highest life expectancy.
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  • The nationwide drug overdose death rate today is what West Virginia's was 10 years ago.
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  • In fact, West Virginia has had the nation's highest rate of drug overdose deaths for several years.
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  • The nation's suicide rate today is where West Virginia's was nearly 20 years ago.
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  • West Virginia also has more people affected by diabetes, heart disease and obesity than most other American states.
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  • Ten years ago, the AP described the West Virginia city of Huntington as the unhealthiest place in America.
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  • The finding was based on health information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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  • The report led the city and the wider area to make changes to food served at schools.
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  • The area also made improvements to parks and sidewalks in an effort to fight obesity and related health problems.
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  • As the city was trying to deal with its citizens' weight problems, a new health crisis came to Huntington: opioid addiction.
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  • One summer day in 2016, emergency workers in Huntington treated 28 overdoses in six hours - including two deaths.
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  • The city later became known as America's overdose capital.
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  • There are several new projects around the state that aim to get children to exercise and eat healthier foods.
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  • Kayla Wright is director of an organization called Try This West Virginia.
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  • The organization is paying for many of the projects.
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  • She said, "We want to give people hope that we can be knocked off the unhealthiest list" of states.
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  • One program paid for high school students to build a running trail.
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  • Another helped people learn to grow a garden.
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  • In Williamson County, local leaders - led by a young doctor named C. Donovan Beckett - developed a series of programs aimed at creating a culture of health.
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  • They opened the Williamson Health and Wellness Center for free medical care.
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  • They set up a community garden, a vegetable delivery service and a running club.
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  • In the coming year, there will be a federally funded treatment program for people addicted to drugs.
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  • One of the most successful programs is one that sends health workers to the homes of people with diabetes.
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  • Jamie Muncy is one success story.
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  • The 48-year-old lost his job and his marriage was in ruins. Last fall, he finally stopped taking opioids.
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  • He began taking the drug after he hurt his foot.
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  • He told the AP, "I had no motivation" to be healthy. "I didn't care."
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  • His weight went from 75 kilograms to 89 kilograms.
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  • He had high blood sugar levels.
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  • A doctor from Williamson Center put him on a special diet, connected him with a physical therapist and put him in the home-visit diabetes program.
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  • Now Muncy walks 1.6 kilometer a day and buys vegetables at the farmers' market.
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  • The changes to his everyday life have helped him bring his weight down to 66 kilograms.
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  • As for Maggie Hill, the lifelong West Virginian, she adopted Charity, a young girl her son had been raising.
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  • He lost his right to raise Charity because of his continued struggle with drug addiction.
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  • Charity has given Hill's life a sense of purpose, she said.
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  • Charity, who is 10, is a good student and hopes to go to college.
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  • If Charity does go away to college one day, Hill says she will move there with her.
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  • I'm Ashley Thompson.
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  • And I'm Jonathan Evans.