Huntington Awarded $1 Million to Help First Responders Battle Opioid Epidemic

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February 07 2021 06:00 pm

The City of Huntington continues to be a leader fighting the opioid epidemic. This time, by better equipping first responders with mental health resources thanks to a new $1 million dollar grant the city won by participating in the Bloomberg Philanthropies US Mayors Challenge.

Compassion fatigue is an issue the city of Huntington will now be able to better address as frist responders continue to be on the front lines of the opioid epidemic.

“These issues that we’re facing, they can become very fatiguing to officers and first responders, without individuals realizing that it’s even happening,” said Lieutenant Phil Watkins of the Huntington Police Department. 

“We see this so much,” said Captain Scott Ramey with the Huntington Fire Department. “We see the same people every day that it gets to the point where it beats down on us and we get to the point where we get so tired.”

Monday morning, Huntington was one of nine cities to be awarded $1 million dollars by Bloomberg Philanthropies to implement potentially breakthrough solutions to combat the opioid epidemic. This time, by taking care of those that see the ugliness of the epidemic on a daily basis, first.

“Programs put in place to help us better cope with the things that we’re seeing; that’s what this grant is gonna provide us with the ability to do,” said Lieutenant Watkins.

Lieutenant Watkins says taking care of those first responders is one of the most important actions the city can take to fight this epidemic. “We’re recognizing the fact as a city that we have to take care of our employees first and foremost to put them in the best position possible to better serve Huntington,” he said.

As for how the public can support first responders, Captain Ramey says it’s all about empathy and putting one’s self in their shoes. “Just to understand what we go through is basically the best thing they can do,” said Captain Ramey. “We do go through a lot, we do see a lot and everything. Every now and then, it just pays for the general public to recognize the struggle that we go through sometimes.”

According to Mayor Steve Williams, Huntington’s first responders are having a great impact on the opioid epidemic. He says Huntington has seen a 41% decline in overdoses this year, and he’s excited Huntington is at the epicenter of the solution.

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