The Lebanon County Commissioners approved a Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention (MH/IP/EI) Program end-of-year expense, recognized Hunger Action Month, and heard updates on Tropical Depression Ida at Thursday’s meeting.

Commissioner vice chairman William Ames and secretary Jo Ellen Litz were present in-person, while chairman Robert Phillips attended remotely via a phone call. Ames led the meeting.

Read More: Coverage of previous Lebanon County Commissioners meetings

Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention Program

Lebanon County Commissioners unanimously approved an expenditure of $79,506 toward improving the MH/IP/EI’s 220 E. Lehman St. location.

Also, $146,397 was remaining from a state block grant toward MH/IP/EI due to underuse of their services during the COVID-19 pandemic and staffing shortages. These funds would have needed to be returned at the end of the fiscal year.

The end-of-year expense will be deducted from remaining block grant funds. The remaining $66,891 will be returned to the state.

The end-of-year expense will go toward building maintenance, including new paint, carpets, minor repairs, and replacement of furniture that currently poses safety concerns.

Contract amendments for MH/IP/EI totaling $47,812 for the 2021-22 fiscal year were also approved unanimously, including a provider to complete certified investigations and a new service for 24-hour respite, providing primary caregivers with much needed opportunities to take care of themselves. This cost is covered by MH/IP/EI’s budget and allocated funds.

A contract amendment totaling $3,232 for the Intellectual Disabilities Program was also approved unanimously, also covered by MH/IP/EI’s budget and allocated funds.

Commissioners unanimously approved a proclamation recognizing Anne Thompson, who served on the MH/IP/EI advisory board for 25 years and spent her career as a nurse at the Lebanon Veterans Administration Hospital. Thompson will be presented the proclamation at MH/IP/EI Sept. 13 at 4 p.m.

“It’s significant effort for anyone to put in, 25 years on any board is certainly more than is required to receive special recognition,” said Ames.

Read More: Going private: County outsources a portion of mental health services

Tropical Depression Ida impact

Google Maps imagery from Sept. 2019 (left) and LebTown photo taken Thursday (right).

Lebanon County director of emergency services Bob Dowd addressed the board regarding the impact of Tropical Depression Ida in Lebanon County.

The county received between 4 and 8 inches of rain. There were numerous localized flooding events such as flooded roads, light water rescue calls, and power outage calls, which were handled by first responders without requests for additional support, Dowd said.

As of Thursday morning, Dowd said, his office had received no reports of infrastructure damage.

“We’ve started the coordination process with all the local officials to collect those reports, but at this point, there hasn’t been anything reported to us, which is a good thing,” he said. “Normally we would have a lot already on the list if there was a real significant problem.”

Dowd said flooding as of Thursday morning was likely as bad as it was going to get, noting that Swatara Creek was projected to crest at slightly over 17 feet and had already reached that amount.

Read More: Annville group looks at crests of the Swatara Creek over the years

“We were lucky in the fact that the ground wasn’t oversaturated already like it was during Tropical Storm Lee,” he said, explaining why damages were not more significant.

Due to the lack of damage reports, Dowd did not recommend a disaster declaration. He also noted that in order to be directly eligible for federal aid, damage costs would need to amount to $389 per person, or slightly over $500,000. He stated that he would keep the commissioners updated as more reports came in.

Hunger Action Month

Commissioners unanimously adopted a proclamation recognizing September 2021 as Hunger Action Month and promising to take steps to bring awareness to the issue of food insecurity and help those who are food insecure.

Read More: Lebanon County Power Packs project fights food insecurity

“When we talk about food insecurity, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s no food in the cupboard,” explained Amy Hill, Central Pennsylvania Food Bank Director of Community Engagement and Advocacy. “But what it means is that is that a family or an individual lacks the economic resources to have reliable access to healthy food.”

Commissioners Jo Ellen Litz (left) and William Ames (right) present Amy Hill of Central Pennsylvania Food Bank with a proclamation recognizing September as Hunger Action Month.

The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank collects food and monetary donations, which it provides to local organizations to distribute to individuals and families in need. Local partner agencies can be found on their website.

“Here in Lebanon County, we are certainly blessed with organizations and dedicated individuals that make this happen and get food to the folks that need it,” said Ames. “I certainly want to take this opportunity to thank them as well as adopt this proclamation.”

Hill discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity in some families while also opening up access to food for children in local school districts.

Read More: All Lebanon school district schools to offer healthy weekend meals through Power Packs Project

“That’s one thing that has come of the pandemic, is they have waived some of those requirements so it is much much easier for the schools and for organizations like the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to make sure that there are healthy meals being available to students,” said Hill. “We know when the schools closed, that was a significant concern about where many many children were going to have access to that healthy food.

“We’ve been able to meet that need and keep it going. Right now Congress is considering a reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which would perhaps take some of these flexibilities which allow schools to send home boxed lunches and those types of things, and turn that into statute.”

According to 2019 data from Feeding America, Lebanon County has a food insecurity rate of 9.8%. Feeding America determines food insecurity by relative income, and families at 185% of the poverty line and below are considered food insecure.

“We all fall on hard times, and it’s important to know that the community supports them,” said Litz. “This is a dignified way of allowing food distribution. I can’t imagine losing your job or losing your spouse and your income’s cut in half, whatever the situation.

“You can have peace of mind knowing that your children won’t go hungry. Thank you for all the good work you do in working with our local agencies.”

Personnel transactions

Resignations and terminations were approved unanimously, with special recognition to Victoria Eisenhauer for over 30 years of service as a recreational aide in the Renova Center, which is an intermediate care facility that provides a home-like atmosphere with 24-hour services for approximately two dozen individuals with severe or profound intellectual disabilities.

“She does a swell job, we’re gonna miss her,” said Litz, who made the motion to approve. “She brightens the place up with all her decorations.”

Leaves of absence were approved unanimously. Promotions, salary changes, and new hires were also approved unanimously.

Conferences approved

Several conference seminars were also approved by the board.

Several employees from Children and Youth sought to attend a Adoption Assistance Manual Training seminar in Reading on Sept. 21 and 22, with mileage and meals reimbursement, mandated by DHS.

Two Domestic Relations employees sought to attend the draft 54th annual training conference in Southern Springs Oct. 3 through 7, including $500 registration fee and reimbursed lodging, meals, mileage, parking and tolls, mandated by BCSE.

These mandated conferences were approved 2:1, with Litz opposed “based on coronavirus variant, until we get this under control.”

Several non-mandatory conferences were also approved at the meeting, two unanimous and three with Litz opposing. Litz noted that one conference she approved was local, and so was unlikely to spread the virus out of the area, and the other was a hybrid model.

Other business

  • Treasurer’s report approved unanimously.
  • Community Action Partnership’s (CAP) medical assistance transportation program’s 2021-22 projected cost of $1,525,116, approved unanimously.
  • CAP subcontractor approved unanimously from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022.
  • CAP homeless management information system approved unanimously (agreement with the Department of Community and Economic Development, no cost to the county).
  • Three disabled veterans approved unanimously to be exempt from real estate tax due to 100% disability from service.
  • Terms renewed for several members of the Renova Advisory Board for another three years, approved unanimously.

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