Mercy Health - Youngstown Celebrates National Police Week with First K-9 Unit
YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO (May 16, 2017) – As the Mercy Health - Youngstown Police Department (MHYPD) observes National Police Week, officers are also making their first official rounds with the department’s first police dog.
The MHYPD’s new K-9 unit was formally certified by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) on May 11 after a rigorous, two-month training period. The department added the K-9, a male German Shepard named Maico, to continue to enhance security at Mercy Health’s St. Elizabeth Youngstown, St. Elizabeth Boardman and St. Joseph Warren hospitals.
The Mahoning Valley K-9 unit is the first for Mercy Health, which also maintains hospitals in seven other regions in Ohio and Kentucky. It is believed to be only the second K-9 unit to be introduced within a hospital-based police department in the state of Ohio. While police dogs are fairly common in the healthcare environment on the West Coast, Mercy Health is an early adopter of the approach in the Midwest. Mercy Health - Youngstown is also one of few Ohio hospitals to maintain a commissioned police department. The MHYPD has been in service for more than 20 years and is accredited by the International Association of Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS).
Ryan Bonacci, chief of the Mercy Health - Youngstown Police Department, said the addition of a police dog is just one more way Mercy Health is delivering on its vision to serve and protect its citizens.
“Hospitals are communities, and our ‘citizens’ consist of anyone who walks through the doors of one of our hospitals,” Bonacci said. “We don’t want our citizens to have to worry about anything but their health when they come to Mercy Health - Youngstown. We’re committed to creating and maintaining a safe environment, so those being cared for in our hospitals can focus solely on their healthcare. Our canine officer and Maico are both important elements of our vision for the safety and security of our facilities throughout the Mahoning Valley.”
Healthcare organizations are among the 16 sectors considered to be part of the critical infrastructure of the United States. Increasing the security of these sectors continues to be a priority. The MHYPD K-9 Unit will enhance security at Mercy Health hospitals through availability to aid in investigations, detect explosives and track people during search and recovery efforts in the event of a declared disaster or other emergency situation. Maico will also be available to provide mutual aid to other law enforcement agencies.
Maico first joined the department in March and completed a two-month program to bond with his handler, get acclimated to his environment and complete the training requirements of the OPOTA police dog program. He lives and serves with MHYPD’s Canine Officer Nicholas Ritchie and will accompany Officer Ritchie on his regular afternoon shift.
The introduction of the MHYPD K-9 Unit was made possible through the support of Mercy Health leadership, as well as a dedicated funding initiative. The acquisition, training and living expenses for Maico were underwritten through grants from the Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley and the Women’s Auxiliary Board of St. Elizabeth Youngstown and St. Elizabeth Boardman hospitals. Mercy Health - Youngstown employees also contributed through the purchase of limited-edition MHYPD K-9 Unit T-shirts.
Patty Melnykovich, Mercy Health - Youngstown director of safety, emergency management and police department, said the MHYPD K-9 program is another way Mercy Health cares for the communities it serves.
“Our K-9 Unit represents our continued efforts to proactively enhance safety and security for our patients, employees, physicians, partners, students and visitors,” Melnykovich said. “We’re grateful that the introduction of Maico to our police department has been so enthusiastically supported across our organization. We’re confident the community will also embrace this program and its potential to enhance security throughout our facilities, and beyond.”
The Mercy Health - Youngstown Police Department includes around-the-clock protection provided by dispatchers and Ohio-commissioned police officers. The department serves and protects its citizens through services such as investigation of crimes and suspicious activities, response to lost or stolen valuables, auto assistance, safety escorts, parking oversight, emergency assistance, wayfinding and response to bomb threats. The force includes skilled and certified dispatchers and officers who provide service 365 days a year to Mercy Health - Youngstown hospitals.
About Mercy Health
Mercy Health - Youngstown is an integrated health system in the Mahoning Valley, which encompasses the Youngstown/Warren metropolitan area – Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties in Ohio. It is part of Mercy Health, which is headquartered in Cincinnati and is the largest health system in Ohio and one of the largest Catholic health systems in the United States. Mercy Health - Youngstown provides a full spectrum of healthcare services – acute inpatient and trauma, outpatient and ambulatory, rehabilitation, behavioral, emergency and urgent care, primary care physicians in patient-centered medical homes, specialist physician care, home health, home medical equipment, long-term care and hospice care, as well as Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley. Learn more at www.mercy.com/Youngstown.