Wheeling Community Looks to Address Mental Health Care Gaps

May 2, 2019

A group of community members in the Northern Panhandle want to address gaps in the mental health care system. Residents met at West Virginia Northern Community College Thursday to learn about mental illness and discuss an unconventional plan to help those suffering in their community.

Speakers pointed to an excess of loneliness in society as a root of excessive mental illness, including substance use disorder.

Organizers like Wheeling resident Susan Hagan hope to rally organizations and individuals to support a new nonprofit called Bridges to Community Living.

Left to right: Susan Hagan, Kate Marshall, and Amy Gamble. These three women are spearheading the effort to create a nonprofit called Bridges to Community Living.
Credit Glynis Board / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

“I’m hoping this becomes a conversation that becomes a movement that starts here in Wheeling and grows throughout West Virginia and then throughout the country,” Hagan said.

Only about 15 homes currently exist in West Virginia for people suffering with mental illness, mostly attached to hospitals. Hagan wants to build and staff family-style, medically compliant, community-based assisted living homes.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 1 of every 5 people in the U.S. live with mental illness.