Michael R. Bloomberg on Oct. 29, 2018, announced Huntington, West Virginia, as a winner of Bloomberg Philanthropies U.S. Mayors Challenge, a yearlong competition that challenged city leaders to uncover and test bold, inventive ideas to confront the toughest problems faced by cities today. Nine cities will receive $1 million to begin implementation on potentially breakthrough solutions to homelessness, the opioid crisis, mobility, climate change, and economic opportunity.
Huntington was selected as a winner for its innovative approach to combating compassion fatigue experienced by first responders, who are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic. Huntington aims to embed certified mental health professionals into its Police and Fire departments to help develop self-care, training and mental health resources that will improve first responders’ personal and professional well-being, attitudes toward substance use disorder, and interactions with overdose victims.
“Because Huntington has been aggressive in identifying ways to combat all facets of the opioid crisis and is now seeing positive results, such as a 41 percent decline in overdoses this year, we are becoming known as the epicenter of the solution," Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said. "That work must include taking care of our first responders, who are working tirelessly on the front lines of this crisis. 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."
Huntington joins Denver; Durham, North Carolina; Fort Collins, Colorado; Georgetown, Texas; Los Angeles; New Rochelle, New York; Philadelphia; and South Bend, Indiana, as winners of the U.S. Mayors Challenge.
"Mayors across the country are tackling the big issues that Washington is ignoring. This competition is designed to help them do even more, by incentivizing and supporting big – and achievable – new ideas,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term mayor of New York City. “Congratulations to all of the winning mayors, who represent cities large and small, in regions across the country. We look forward to seeing the results of their work -- and to helping the ideas that prove most effective spread far and wide."
The Mayors Challenge Selection Committee, co-chaired by Former Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and Former Xerox Chairman & CEO Ursula Burns, is comprised of distinguished policy experts, artists, academics, business executives, and social innovation leaders. The committee evaluated the cities’ applications based on their idea’s vision, potential for impact, implementation plan, and potential to spread to other cities.
New to the Mayors Challenge this year was a 6-month “test and learn” phase where each of the 35 Champion Cities received up to $100,000 and technical assistance to test and build support for their ideas. Cities tested core components of their ideas with residents, improved and refined their proposals, and developed a plan for implementation and impact measurement.
Huntington City Manager Cathy Burns, who was the project coordinator for Huntington’s application, said the growing number of cities overwhelmed by opioid overdoses has generated demand for a proven approach to addressing first responder compassion fatigue.
“While the opioid epidemic has exposed a lack of mental health resources for first responders, stress and fatigue from other events, such as hurricanes, fires, school shootings and terrorist attacks also increase demand for solutions to protect the mental health of those who protect our communities,” Burns said. “This program has been developed from its inception as a replicable model that other cities across the country can use.”
Joining Burns on Huntington’s U.S. Mayors Challenge team were Fire Chief Jan Rader; Lt. Phil Watkins of the Huntington Police Department; Development and Planning Director Scott Lemley; Department of Finance representative Sharon Pell; Purchasing Director Kim Bailey; Krishawna Harless, wellness coordinator for the Huntington Police and Fire departments; and Lyn O’Connell, associate director of community services for the Division of Addiction Sciences at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and Marshall Health.
The U.S. Mayors Challenge builds on the success of previous Bloomberg Philanthropies-sponsored Challenges in the U.S. (2013), Europe (2014), and Latin America and the Caribbean (2016). Previous Mayors Challenge winners include São Paulo, Brazil with a program to increase farmers’ income and reduce urban sprawl; Barcelona, Spain for work to create digital trust networks that support at-risk elderly citizens; and Providence, RI, for a program to measure and reduce the “word gap” among low-income children during pivotal brain development years. For more information, visit mayorschallenge.bloomberg.org.
About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies works in 480 cities in more than 120 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2017, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $702 million. For more information, please visit www.bloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.
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