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One of Lebanon County’s service agencies is moving from paper to a digital platform for all of its client and vendor forms. 

Approval was given Thursday by the County Commissioners for the Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention (MH/ID/EI) department to enter into an agreement with California-based vendor DocuSign to provide electronic signature platform capabilities. 

“We plan to implement electronic signatures for all three of our programs,” said Holly Leahy, MH/ID/EI administrator. “As well as for our psychiatrist Dr. Townsend and our provider contracts.”

The move helps ensure the agency is compliant with government mandates, according to Leahy.

“Not only does this bring us into compliance with regulatory requirements but also brings us in line with industry best practice standards by increasing the ease and accessibility to service and supports to the community that we serve,” said Leahy.

Leahy said the one-year contract begins Feb. 4 and includes 10,000 “envelopes.” An envelope is defined as one electronic transmission regardless of the number of pages within an envelope. 

“You can have as many pages within that one transmission as you like,” Leahy told the commissioners in response to a question from Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz. 

The contract will cost about $17,000 and will be paid out of the agency’s service delivery and program costs — expenses that are covered by state and federal funding. Payment for the electronic signature program comes at no cost to county taxpayers, Leahy added. 

Leahy told Litz that the new program covers “so many things that we do” and helps streamline the process of working with their contract providers who provide services and the clientele served by the agency. 

“In MH/ID/EI, we complete intakes and complete assessments with individuals, with most being done at this time over the phone or virtually via Zoom,” said Leahy. “This will give us the ability to send those releases of information and the form to authorize services for those individuals. They would get them immediately and be able to sign those and return them, vs. what we’ve been doing, which is paper.”

The current paper method is a more time-consuming process that doesn’t always yield results since many clients fail to return the paperwork to the agency, Leahy added. 

“We print out the paper, put it in an envelope, mail it through the United States Postal Service and then hope that we get it back,” she said.

The agency will retain paper copies of program forms for those individuals who don’t have access to computers or who may not have the ability to fill out forms online.

“We do everything that is necessary to ensure that folks have accessibility to the services that are important,” said Leahy. “So if they are unable to access DocuSign, we will most definitely provide the paper copies and do whatever is necessary to ensure that they are able to authorize the services and be able to access those services.”

County administrator Jamie Wolgemuth noted that practically everything the agency does falls under DocuSign services, adding that “the only people who wouldn’t use it are the ones who can’t use it.”

When asked about the savings realized with the switch, Leahy said she didn’t know how much the agency pays annually in postage. However, many mailed envelope packets can contain up to 30 pages per packet and also include a pre-stamped return envelope, which doubles the cost of each packet of paperwork that’s mailed to clients.

“It is expensive to mail them out and we include a postage-paid envelope for folks to return them,” added Leahy. “As I said, we are not getting a very good return rate for those, so that’s a large expense for envelopes not being returned, so there will be large savings, I think, for the county as well.”  

Danielle Hogg, director of Information Technology Services, said there may be a need to increase the contract this year if the agency exceeds the 10,000-envelope limit. She added that the department is looking to move the same DocuSign product into other county departments in the future.

In other county business, the commissioners:

  • Amended 11 contracts for the Area Agency on Aging and increased funding for each by 5.5 percent. Cost of living increases, including higher food costs and staffing issues have necessitated the request to amend the contracts for higher payment to service providers. The 5.5 percent increase comes at no additional cost to county taxpayers.
  • Approved the Jan. 20 meeting minutes and the Jan. 26 workshop meeting session minutes, which included an executive session to discuss personnel matters.
  • Received and approved the Treasurer’s Report.
  • Approved real estate tax exemptions for two locally disabled veterans.
  • Heard and approved numerous personnel transactions and gave approval to employee-mandated conferences for continuing education credits or to meet certification requirements. 

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James Mentzer

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; and Lancaster...