Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch Mayor Steve Williams delivers his State of the City address Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, at Huntington City Hall.

The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON - Huntington is one of 35 "champion cities" selected Wednesday as finalists in the 2018 U.S. Mayors Challenge, a nationwide competition that encourages city leaders to uncover bold, inventive ideas that confront the toughest problems cities face.

As a finalist, Huntington will receive $100,000 to test its idea of providing in-house mental health support for first responders, according to a release from the city.

"Because we have been aggressive in identifying ways to transform our economy and tackle this nationwide drug problem, we are on the front line to find the solution," Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said in the release. "However, there is much more to do. Our first responders are working tirelessly to respond to emergency calls related to this problem. We must ensure that they have the appropriate resources so that they can continue to deliver quality care."

Since 2016, Huntington has implemented several solutions to addiction that have served as models for recovery across the country. Huntington is now focusing on its first responders, who are suffering from compassion fatigue as the volume and frequency of overdose calls generate feelings of depleted empathy, higher turnover and less capacity to deliver high-quality care. The city of Huntington proposes to embed mental health care professionals within emergency response departments to provide in-house mental health support to first responders as well as connect individuals suffering from addiction to treatment and recovery resources.

By advancing to the six-month "Test, Learn and Adapt" phase of the competition, Huntington and the other cities will use the $100,000 to refine their ideas as well as test and begin building support for urban innovations and submit a new application in August 2018.

In October, four cities will receive $1 million awards and one will receive a grand prize of $5 million to bring their ideas to life.

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