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Mon EMS gets approval to use sobering center as part of two-year test program

MORGANTOWN — Mon EMS has received the green light to begin transporting patients who meet very-specific criteria to the Hope Hill Sobering Center.

During Wednesday’s meeting of the Monongalia County Commission, Mon EMS Executive Director Forest Weyen said the state’s Medical Policy Care Committee — the primary policy-making and advisory body concerning medical issues involving EMS — signed off on a two-year test program through which HHSC becomes a viable destination for what will likely be a small number of patients.

“We need to be mindful that this type of thing is very cutting-edge. It’s very interesting, but there is sort of a low exclusionary bar on there,” Weyen said. “The thing we want to make sure of is all these folks are safe. The program is very rigorous. It’s one of those things where if you hit a certain trigger, we’re going to have to recommend that you go to the [hospital] anyway, which is just a safeguard for those patients.”

The plan is to have EMS staff educated on the guidelines and procedures in order to get the service in place by Feb. 14.

This two-year test program is a first of its kind in West Virginia and it’s getting attention from across the state.

Weyen said he’s fielded a number of questions about its implementation, and particularly, how it’s being funded.

“I told them that at least in this initial phase, I don’t think the numbers are going to be humongous. The citizens did appropriate a levy for us,” he said.  “Until such time that it becomes overwhelming, let’s get the proof of concept and get the thing working, then at a point in time if it gets overwhelming we can have that conversation down the road.”

HHSC is a roughly 5,100-square-foot facility that operates between 8 p.m.-8 a.m. Thursday through Saturday on the first floor of Hazel’s House of Hope.

Its purpose is to serve as an alternative to jail or the emergency room for intoxicated adults. It’s a place where individuals can recover from the effects of drugs and/or alcohol and also be connected to resources, if needed.

In addition to local law enforcement and EMS, concerned friends and family can drop people off at the center, though calling ahead is encouraged (304-827-1171).

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