WHEELING, W.Va. – A new effort to combat opioid drug overdoses and various mental and behavioral health issues in the City of Wheeling was announced Thursday with the Wheeling Police Department and Northwood Health Systems.

Representatives from both agencies discussed the new Crisis Intervention and Overdose Response Program, which ultimately aims to intervene directly with individuals before a crisis arises and reduce the departments mental health call volume.

The program targets four areas – overdose response, mental health response, utilizing WPD’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) on calls, and providing training to the CIT and regional law enforcement agencies. Professionals with Northwood also will be co-responding to these types of calls – by using their Mobile Response Team on a 24-hour basis.

“It has been a joy to work with the professionals at Northwood and we are excited to expand our previous overdose response strategy to now include a mental health component,” said Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger.

“For years, police officers have been working with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis with limited resources or no formal training. This new program links the two entities that share a common goal. Substance abuse and mental illness are often linked, by working with the Northwood Mobile Responders, we believe we can reduce our calls for service, criminal activity and ultimately provide help to those who are in desperate need.”

The Mobile Response Unit will activate when an officer is called to help an individual experiencing a mental health issue or drug overdose. Northwood’s team will respond with police at the scene or the hospital. The unit will then give an assessment of the individual needing assistance and evaluate them and later provide treatment options of inpatient or outpatient services, a referral to residential treatment or crisis stabilization services.

“Mobile Response is a 24/7/365 program designed to address crisis level emotional and behavioral health needs within the community. In partnership with the Wheeling Police Department, through co-response, we have launched our MCR program in Ohio County with efforts to improve access to treatment and reduce unnecessary use of inpatient hospitalization and incarceration. By expanding how we deliver services, we reach more people in need,” said Kristy Myers, Director of Crisis Services at Northwood Health Systems.

If someone is experiencing a crisis, individuals are strongly urged to call 9-1-1, visit the nearest emergency room, or call the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 9-8-8.