New Mental Health Center Opens Doors

WHEELING – The public got its first look this morning at a new $6 million mental health center aimed at helping children 5-18 years old.

A ribbon cutting ceremony for the Robert C. Byrd Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health Center, located at 2211 Eoff St., adjacent to the Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, was held at 9:30 a.m. And an open house was planned through 4 p.m. today.

Rick Buckelew, director of Behavioral Health at Ohio Valley Medical Center, said the facility will start receiving patients next week.

It will help children 5-12 years old and adolescents 13-18 years old who are still in high school. There are separate wards for each age group.

A third unit will be used for an overflow of patients or children who need closer observation. The center replaces OVMC’s current mental health center, HillCrest. The new facility is an inpatient unit where children will typically stay for no more than eight days at one time.

“It’s bigger and brighter. … They need fresh air and sunshine,” said John Antal, adolescent center director, of the children. “They need to exert energy and with this facility they will be able to do that.”

OVMC’s Hillcrest has 18 beds for children who are psychiatric patients, while the new facility has 30. It opened in 1973 and was built to accommodate adults only. The new facility will serve both boys and girls who live within a 100-mile radius of Wheeling.

The facility includes a gymnasium with a basketball court where other physical education classes will be held, such as yoga. Playground equipment also will be installed in an outdoor courtyard. Children will be treated for a variety of issues including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and those with self-mutilating behavior. Some children have oppositional defiant behavior, which means they won’t follow instructions, are aggressive and sometimes hit their parents.

“Untreated depression is the No. 1 cause of suicide, which is the third leading cause of death among young people. Our facility can provide the healing that youth need with the combination of psychiatric intervention, psychotherapy, recreational activities and educational services,” Antal said.

Buckelew noted they do not typically treat children with drug or alcohol issues. The children are often brought for treatment by their parents, from group homes or by the state after being rescued from abusive homes.

While in office, the late Sen. Robert Byrd secured $5.7 million for the project because children often had to leave the area for treatment. The remainder of the project was covered by OVMC’s operating fund.