WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — It’s a serious problem that many expected, but now is causing a huge strain on the Ohio County Sheriff’s Department. After the early and unexpected closing of Hillcrest and Robert C Byrd last Wednesday, authorities are now struggling with taking care of those out on the streets.
The Ohio County Sheriff’s office has been transporting patients from Hillcrest for a while. But now—it’s becoming too much to handle. And since their closing, the sheriff’s office is struggling to keep up.
We only did transports at that time on Tuesday and Thursdays. We had our van. So, if we had to take one or two throughout the state, it wasn’t an issue. Now, it’s to the point we’re transporting on a daily basis. We’ve had two or three per day that we’re taking. It’s a lot of man hours. We’re spending 25 hours with one person alone.Sheriff Tom Howard
Howard says they’re trying to keep not only the community safe, but also the patients that we’re suddenly displaced.
The manpower [is the] issue. My guys have been stepping up. We’ve been taking care of them, but like I said it’s becoming a manpower issue.Sheriff Tom Howard
Hillcrest housed 55 beds. Wheeling hospital is trying to help, but that could take up to a year, and As for Reynolds they’re hoping in just two weeks they’ll have 18 beds. Until then, Ohio County Sheriffs department will try to make ends meet.
We want to make sure they’re fed. We have to have them mentally checked out as far as physical health wise. We have to make sure they’re okay for a transport or something like that through a hospital. There’s a lot of issues that go with it. And you know – we want to make sure everyone is humanely treated. That’s the big issueSheriff Tom Howard
The department is pushing to employee more workers because Howard says they must always have two officers with a patient. So, having multiple patients a day keeps their hands tied.
We weren’t prepared. We still thought we had time. We we’re working on all this. And then we kind of had the rug pulled out from underneath of us when they shut down real quick. We we’re expecting to still have another 30 days at least. And then they shut down real quick. So that made a big burden.Sheriff Tom Howard
But– Patients came from all over. So, even if both hospitals opened beds, it won’t meet the needs of the valley.
The department has made 260 mental hygiene’s alone this year, and Tom Howard says that number will only grow. As for Robert C Byrd, they haven’t had an issue with juveniles yet, but when someone needs transported, they’ll make sure it happens.