OAK HILL, WV (WOAY) – The ongoing plan to place a 12-bed forensic services group home right in our backyards has been a topic of concern on many local’s minds, along with what exactly this new home could bring, but regardless, the establishment of this facility is almost complete.
“The facility will be leased and operated by the DHHR and from my understanding, they may also contract with someone else to actually manage the facility. It is a group home and it is permitted in the zone that is located in Oak Hill,” says Bill Hannabass, city manager for the City of Oak Hill.
The facility will house patients transported from the William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital in Weston, which is an acute care psychiatric hospital. According to the DHHR, the patients are ones who have been determined unfit to stand trial and have been found not guilty by reasons of mental illness. But just how big of a risk these patients could be remains a responsibility of the DHHR.
“I think the Department of Health and Human Resources has a procedure that they have to evaluate the residents of the group home to make sure that there’s not a risk involved in it,” he says.
And while there have been many questions and concerns being voiced to the city over the matter, by law, there is essentially nothing the City of Oak Hill can do.
“It is a state and federal law that a group home cannot be denied in any zone, in any municipality, or in any county within the state of West Virginia,” Hannabass says. “So, it’s not something that the city of Oak Hill solicited or didn’t do our job zoning-wise, it is a state law that we cannot deny or restrict any matter of a group home located in Oak Hill.”
The city was given a building permit application that they had no choice but to approve or it would be a direct violation of law by the nature of this facility. There are currently six different facilities throughout West Virginia similar to the one coming to Oak Hill, which will be up and running any day now.