Sheriff: State’s Mental Hygiene System Needs Fixed

The Ohio County Sheriff’s Department spends about $1,750 a month to transport mental hygiene patients to treatment facilities across West Virginia.

And Sheriff Pat Butler believes that cost is becoming a burden to not only his county, but every county in the state.

”The mental hygiene system in West Virginia is broken,” Butler said during his fiscal 2014 budget hearing Tuesday with Commissioners Orphy Klempa, Tim McCormick and Randy Wharton.

Butler said he needs to increase his line item for transporting the patients to $21,000 for the coming fiscal year. He said the cost continues to rise and, to date, there is little that can be done about it. Deputies often are called on to transport such patients to various mental health facilities in the local area and across the state. If there are no more beds available in Ohio County, the patients sometimes must be transported to facilities as far away as Bluefield, W.Va. Such a trip could take up to 10 hours, he said, and costs the county overtime pay for the deputies involved. He believes civilians could do the job just as well, including retired officers.

Meanwhile, Butler’s other requests included a 4.5-percent pay increase for deputies; $4,000 for new bulletproof vests; $6,000 for laptop computers; $12,000 for GPS systems for new vehicles; $90 for each of his 31 deputies for uniforms; between $7,500 and $12,000 for firearms training and ammunition; and $285,000 for six new cruisers. County Administrator Greg Stewart noted the vehicles would be financed during the next five to six years at $60,000 to $70,000 a year.

For the county Tax Department, Butler requested a 5-percent pay increase for his workers.

”The girls do a lot more work than before. … They’re a great group, and I’d like to see them make more money,” Butler said.

During his hearing, Prosecutor Scott Smith requested additional security for his office in the form of a keycard system for outer doors to his department.

”We do get a lot of unstable people. … They’re mad we’re prosecuting them. It would add another layer of safety,” Smith said.

Circuit Clerk Brenda Miller requested a pay increase for her workers. And although she did not say a specific number aloud, Klempa said her request ranged from $1,000 to $2,000 per worker. She has nine employees. A pay increase, she noted, would make her office more competitive with state offices who need the same type of workers but pay more.

Miller also said she continues to need additional dry space for record keeping. Some books stored in the basement, she said, are beginning to deteriorate. She requested $25,000 for more computer scanning equipment to copy the records.

County Clerk Patty Fahey requested $26,798 for a new computer server system for her office, along with a $500 pay raise for her workers.

County Emergency Management Agency Director Lou Vargo requested $30,000 for the maintenance of existing equipment including the 911 resident calling system, GIS software and a copier. The request would also cover the second year of financing for an EMA vehicle purchased last year that he uses, Vargo said.

The fiscal 2013 general fund budget was $12,377,265.

Budget hearings continue at 6 p.m. today with Airport Manager Tom Tominack, Extension Agent John Miller, Lee Day Report Center Director Fred McDonald and Assessor Kathie Hoffman scheduled to speak. The open hearings are held in Room 215 of the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St., Wheeling.