Wheeling Area Psychiatric Services’ Future Left Up in Air

WHEELING — The future of inpatient psychiatric services in the Wheeling area remains undetermined with the closure of Ohio Valley Medical Center’s Hillcrest unit looming.

Daniel C. Dunmyer, president and CEO of OVMC in Wheeling and East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry, announced Wednesday that the two hospitals will close in two to three months.

While several area agencies offer outpatient mental health services, crisis stabilization and addiction-related treatment, Hillcrest at OVMC is the only local facility that operates an inpatient psychiatric unit.

Currently, Wheeling Hospital doesn’t offer inpatient mental health care, but its leadership team now is considering the possibility of designating inpatient psychiatric beds in response to Hillcrest’s impending closure.

Wheeling Hospital CEO Douglass Harrison said meeting the community’s psychiatric and behavioral health needs “probably is my biggest concern with this closure” of OVMC and EORH.

Harrison said he plans to talk to Dunmyer about psychiatric care and how Wheeling Hospital can address those needs.

“Wheeling Hospital has no inpatient psychiatric beds,” Harrison noted, adding, “We’re looking internally to see if we are able to open some beds as a short-term fix. We will look at ways to partner with folks on outpatient components with behavioral health.”

Northwood Health System, with headquarters in Wheeling, offers behavioral health services in many locations in the area. Among those sites, Northwood operates a crisis stabilization unit and offers outpatient services in leased space in the same building where Hillcrest is located.

In a statement issued Thursday, Northwood CEO Mark Games said, “Northwood Health Systems is completely independent, and not a part of the OVMC-EORH system. Northwood Health Systems has over 25 locations in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, and one of those locations is on the OVMC campus.”

He added, “Issues recently announced by OVMC-EORH will have no effect on Northwood’s operation. We look forward to continuing our tradition of providing high-quality behavioral health care for individuals in the Wheeling community struggling with substance abuse, mental illness and intellectual disabilities.”

Games did not indicate whether its use of space on the OVMC campus would be affected by the hospital’s anticipated closure.

Northwood officials have not yet responded to questions regarding whether it would be able to take over Hillcrest’s inpatient psychiatric unit and/or operate OVMC’s Robert C. Byrd Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Center. The center is the Ohio Valley’s only hospital-based inpatient child and adolescent psychiatric and behavioral health facility.

Officials at West Virginia University Health System in Morgantown “are trying to determine appropriate strategies” to respond to behavioral health needs in the Wheeling area, said Angela Jones-Knopf, corporate director of media relations and public affairs for WVU Medicine.

Jones-Knopf and Heather Sammons, also of WVU Medicine, said the health system’s leadership is “still digesting” the news of OVMC-EORH closure.

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