Thirty years after opening their doors for business, Lebanon County’s Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention (MH/ID/EI) offices are ready for a long-awaited makeover.

But some of those renovations will have to wait just a little bit longer since the department is experiencing supply chain issues related to the ongoing pandemic, according to Holly Leahy, administrator of the county’s MH/ID/EI program.

Leahy said while some of the supplies for the MH/ID/EI office building, which is located in the 200 block of East Lehman Street, has been delivered, other components have been tagged with a December delivery date or, worse still, none at all.

“There are areas that are going to be carpeted and while we have the carpeting squares, we do not have the coping, which is rubber material that goes along the wall at the top of the flooring,” said Leahy. “That is a component that is delaying the contractor from doing that work. We are also replacing the flooring in our bathrooms, the stairwell and our small elevator and none of that flooring has come in yet. We haven’t been told why, only that it is unavailable for delivery.”

New carpet and tile flooring for areas that are worn out or beyond minor cosmetic fixes and new office furniture are the major components to this renovation project, according to Leahy, along with much-needed painting.

Worn carpeting at MH/ID/EI’s offices, which has not been updated in 20 years.

Leahy said a total of 37 rooms or areas within the 11,814-square-foot building will receive either paint, new flooring such as carpeting and tile, furniture or a combination of all three. She noted some work has already happened, including the installation of new flooring and the painting of walls in seven offices and three conference rooms.

Outside of the building, areas where the masonry is crumbling will be repointed, the filler plate and back doors will be replaced, and areas around the windows will be fixed.

“We were told by December for delivery, particularly for the furniture that has been ordered,” said Leahy. “We are getting furniture for three new case managers and we asked if that could be prioritized, if at all possible, so they can move into that space and we were just recently told Dec. 28 as a potential ship date. But we were also told that’s not guaranteed, that it’s just a potential ship date.”

The offices have never undergone a major renovation during the past three decades because of funding availability. Leahy said the county has some leftover state funding that was not spent due to the downturn in business during the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The price tag for the renovation project totals $220,000, she added.

“These are state funds that we had received that are allocated funds for this type of work,” said Leahy. “We have these funds available due, really, to the under-utilization of services because of COVID. We will be using these one-time funds for this project. Otherwise they would have to be returned to the state.”

Read more: Commissioners approve MH/ID/EI end-of year expense, hear updates on Tropical Depression Ida

This is the first major renovation project to occur for the offices in that county agency in 30 years.

“I believe some people would disagree with that assessment, but when you spread the cost out over 30 years, it really isn’t that much money,” said Leahy. “It is important to note that we don’t always have funds available to do things such as this. When the funds are not available, you simply push it from year to year until you believe, hopefully, that funds will be available.”

A waiting room at MH/ID/EI’s offices.

Once completed, the renovations will bring a new aesthetic to the MH/ID/EI offices for both the clients and staff, which includes 35 employees when at full operational strength.

“It is invaluable to create a warm and inviting and safe environment for the individuals that we serve,” said Leahy. “These are folks with disabilities in our community and oftentimes they feel a little bit disconnected from our community. They are shunned because of their appearance or their behavior.

“So when they meet with us, it is essential that we assure them that they are in a safe environment, that we do value them, we do respect them and find them extremely important no matter who they are.”

The project also demonstrates to staff that they are valued for the work they perform, Leahy said.

“This is also about showing our staff that they are equally important in creating a warm, and a safe and inviting place to work each day as well,” Leahy added.

Leahy noted there are two large spaces that have become available to rent at their two-floor office complex after targeted case management work was outsourced earlier this year. First right of refusal for the available space will go to other county agencies and, if there are no takers, Leahy hopes to make the offices available to rent to businesses in the private sector.

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James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; Lancaster...