HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Huntington is getting $1 million to continue its efforts to address potential compassion fatigue among the first responders who are are working daily on the frontlines of the opioid epidemic.
On Monday morning, Huntington was named one of the nine winning cities for the 2018 Bloomberg Philanthropies U.S. Mayors Challenge at the 6th Annual CityLab being held in Detroit, Mich.
The other winning cities were Denver, Co., Fort Collins, Co., Durham, N.C., Georgetown, Tx., Los Angeles, Ca., New Rochelle, N.Y., Philadelphia, Pa. and South Bend, Ind.
“That’s the promise of the Mayors Challenge — that, if we give communities a boost, they will be able to implement bold ideas and tackle big problems,” said former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The year-long competition challenged city leaders to try out new ways to address some of their toughest issues like economic opportunity, homelessness, mobility and climate change along with the opioid crisis.
With the $1 million prize money, Huntington plans to embed certified mental health professionals within the Huntington Police Department and Huntington Fire Department.
It’s the next phase in the already underway implementation of a program focused on self-care, training and mental health resources for those who regularly respond to drug overdoses in Huntington and surrounding areas.
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said the drug fight in his city, what he sees as the “epicenter of the solutions,” must include such support for first responders.
“That is why I am thrilled that Bloomberg Philanthropies is partnering with our community to ensure that our first responders have the appropriate resources so that they can continue to deliver quality care,” Williams said in a statement.
Caroline Kennedy, a former U.S. ambassador, and Ursula Burns, a past Xerox CEO, have co-chaired the Mayors Challenge Selection Committee made up of policy experts, artists, academics, business executives and others.
More than 300 cities applied.
Application evaluation criteria included implementation plan, vision, impact and potential to spread to other cities.
“They have ideas and there are cities around the country that might want to copy those ideas and that was one of the criteria in being selected as a winner,” Bloomberg explained.
“Your idea had to be useful for others and you had to make sure that they could copy it because we’re not here just to help our own cities, we’re here to help the whole country and really the whole world.”
This year, a six-month “test and learn” phase provided funding and other resources for the 35 Champion Cities which were named as finalists in the U.S. Mayors Challenge.
Around the world, Bloomberg said his foundation has been investing more in local communities.
“We’ve been doubling down here in the United States, because the truth is, the more dysfunctional Washington gets, the more important local governments have become,” he said.
“Today, cities and towns of all sizes have embraced the spirit of innovation.”