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State help needed

Residents of the Ohio Valley are still reeling from the news that two hospitals we have relied on for more than a century will close in a matter of weeks.

But, in true local fashion, many area leaders have pledged to do all they can to save the institutions — or at least some of the most important parts of them. They need help in those endeavors, and we hope Ohio legislators and Gov. Mike DeWine will notice and take action as well.

Alecto Healthcare Services announced last week that it will close East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry and Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling in the next three months. As a result, 1,200 people will lose their jobs and thousands of patients could lose access to their physicians and critical health care services, including nearby emergency rooms.

In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice says he is exploring what can be done to save the hospitals. Here in Ohio, Belmont County Commissioner Josh Meyer and Martins Ferry Mayor Robert Krajnyak have said they are seeking a buyer for EORH. State Sen. Frank Hoagland has suggested that small cities like Martins Ferry consider alternatives to full-fledged hospitals, such as smaller clinics.

One major concern about the planned closures is that OVMC is home to the Robert C. Byrd Center Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health Center, the local area’s only hospital-based inpatient psychiatric facility. This should sound an alarm for DeWine, who has pointed to mental health issues as a major component in the ongoing drug addiction crisis.

DeWine believes using a multi-faceted approach of law enforcement, community outreach and education is the best way to combat the crisis. DeWIne wants to invest millions in treatment and recovery efforts, including expansion of specialized drug court programs and increasing access to evaluation and treatment programs as well as providing more services to families with parents who are battling addiction.

Losing two hospitals that treat so many Eastern Ohio residents, including one that features a major mental health treatment center, should be a concern for the governor and all Buckeye State residents. We look forward to hearing how DeWine — like Justice — will help local leaders find answers to these pressing concerns in the coming weeks.

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