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‘Bigger & Brighter’ Center Is Ready to Help Children

Byrd Mental Health facility opens doors

January 11, 2013
By SHELLEY HANSON Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

The public got its first look Thursday at a new $6 million mental health center aimed at helping children 5 to 18 years old.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house 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. 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.

Article Photos

Photo by Shelley Hanson
Wheeling Nailers mascot Spike gives Patty Olako, OVMC food and nutrition supervisor, a thumbs up as she cuts cake during the Robert C. Byrd Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health Center open house Thursday.

''It's bigger and brighter. ... They need fresh air and sunshine,'' John Antal, adolescent center director, said 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. HillCrest 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, such as yoga, will be held. 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 self-mutilating behavior. Some children have oppositional defiant behavior, which means they won't follow instructions, are aggressive and sometimes hit their parents.

Buckelew noted the staff does 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.

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