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Mental health care lacking in Preston County

KINGWOOD — Preston County is in dire need of more mental health resources.

That’s the message Susan Hooten, a concerned citizen, brought to the Preston County Commission and its regular meeting on Tuesday.

“Mental behavioral therapy should be a main concern for this county,” Hooten said.  “Whether problems stem from drug and alcohol use or a victim of domestic physical, mental abuse. Therapy and medical medicated assisted treatment would be nice to offer our citizens of Preston County.”

Hooten said she has been working with Preston Circuit Court Judge Steven Shaffer and V.J. Davis, administrator of the Preston County Health Department. She has also reached out to Sen. Joe Manchin and state Sen. Dave Sypolt.

Wait times at Valley Mental Health, which currently provides services in the county, are six months or longer, Hooten said. 

Valley Mental Health evaluates people for mental hygiene cases, which Shaffer said “takes forever.” 

Davis said, “When you get to looking for it, you know, the availability is very limited. And, you know, there is a huge need for behavioral and mental health therapy in the county.”

Prior to COVID, the health department was looking into how it could offer therapy services, Davis said. However, it took a backburner because of the pandemic — which has only increased the need for mental health care.

“My idea of the health department has always been that we’re here to try to … fill in when there’s a need, to try to help with that need and health-related issues,” Davis said.

The health department is organizing a stakeholder meeting for April 21 to try and bring as many people as possible together to work on a solution, Davis said. 

Shaffer said county officials, elected and not, do a great job of working together and solving problems when there is a common goal.

“We need to be proactive on this, instead of reactive,” Shaffer said. “You know, to me, there should be all kinds of COVID money out here that we could use for grants to try to get either a psychologist or psychiatrist at the health department or at a private health facility here in Preston County,” Shaffer said. 

Finding out what funding there is to help the health department and community clinics with licensing and startup fees — which cost around $50,000 — is what Hooten asked the commission to help with.

Two support groups are backing the drive, Hooten said. Preston’s Problems and Struggles holds meetings at 6 p.m. Tuesdays at the Together for Christ Ministry. The second is Together We Will, which holds meetings at 7 p.m. Tuesdays. The leader of that group, Pastor Lisa Fox, was at the commission meeting to show support.

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