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Lebanon County commissioners awarded three contracts Thursday totaling $171,000 to fight opioid addiction.

This funding is part of the opiate settlement funds that were paid to counties that participated in the commonwealth’s lawsuit against drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and distributors of their products, according to James Donmoyer, executive director of the Lebanon County Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse. 

“The first-year money we received was in the amount of $171,000, and that money is to be spent on OUD (Opiate Use Disorder), SOD (Substance Use Disorder), or co-occurring, which is those who are experiencing both drug and alcohol and mental health issues,” said Donmoyer. “These three contracts reflect the $171,000 that we’ve already received.”

Donmoyer noted that the commission has already received the second payment of $258,000 and that funds will continue to be paid for a period of 18 years.

“These contracts I’m entering today will definitely, my hope is, will continue for at least the next 18 years,” said Donmoyer. “So sustainability is not a question. The $171,000 we got the first year is the lowest amount we’re going to get for 18 years, so I know I can maintain these three programs for the next 18 years.”

Donmoyer noted that additional funding will allow the commission to add more programs in the future. What those programs might entail and what their cost may be was not discussed during the bi-weekly meeting of the county commissioners on March 2. 

The three contracts were handled as separate action items since one of the contracted organizations (PrimeCare Medical Inc. of Harrisburg) is outside of Lebanon County. Donmoyer said that contract covers medical services provided to inmates. 

PrimeCare will receive the lion’s share of the funding at a capped amount of $100,000 for the prison’s MAT (Medical Assistance Treatment) program. The contract covers physician appointments, pharmacy prescriptions and a variety of treatment drugs, including methadone. 

The second contract is in the maximum amount of $30,576 for a part-time correctional officer to facilitate and maintain the MAT program on behalf of the prison. 

The third contract is with Lebanon County Probation Services at a capped amount of $40,001 to have a dedicated probation officer assume OUD, SOD, and co-occurring individuals as part of that employee’s caseload.

County administrator Jamie Wolgemuth said the county launched these initiatives at the start of the year in anticipation of the funding being received, and added that eight individuals at the county prison have entered into treatment. As such, all three approved contracts are retroactive to Jan. 1.

Before wrapping up his presentation, Donmoyer said other lawsuits are pending between the commonwealth and other opioid manufacturers and that Lebanon County will be participating in those cases, too. He said lawsuits are pending or have been launched against Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Teva and Allergan.

In another action item, the county’s probation services and district attorney’s office presented a work statement to the county commissioners to switch their shared case management system from UCM to CDI BTM, a company based in Bucks County. 

The current UCM system was developed and maintained by the County Commissioners Association of PA, but will be phased out during 2023. 

“On Feb. 7 we received notice that the UCM system was going to be decommissioned by Dec. 22 of this year,” said Audrey Fortna, director of Lebanon County Probation Services. “Fortunately, probation services had already been looking into – migrating to – a different system. This is a system that both of our departments are looking to transfer to.”

When County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz asked for a cost comparison between the two systems, District Attorney Pier Hess Graf said “the cost is more or less the same.”

“It’s a few hundred dollars more,” said Graf. “The nice part is — at least for our department — is that they are going to incorporate text message notification for victim services, which we didn’t have in the old system.”

Graf noted there are also new requirements under state law for notification concerning certain court hearings, adding the new technology will enable her office staff to more easily reach out and notify victims. 

Graf and Fortna added that the new system offers more functionality and a better user experience, and will increase productivity because more paperwork can be channeled through the system more quickly. 

“The cost difference is worth what it is, and like Pier said, it’s really not that much of a cost difference,” added Fortna.

There will be data transfer fees associated with the move, but those costs will be paid through supervision fee funds that are administered by Judge John Tylwalk’s office.

In another item presented by county probation services, the department will begin to offer a youth fishing program, which has been launched with great success in Dauphin County, according to Fortna.

Working in cooperation with The Academy, a local service provider, and the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC), the program is cost free to the county since all gear is provided by PFBC.

“As you are aware, the courts have been supporting the implementation efforts of evidence-based practices in probation services for many years,” Fortna wrote in a memo in support of the program. “While we have seen many positive impacts on supervision efforts and outcomes, especially in the Juvenile Unit, we continue to strive to improve the services that are offered.”

Fortna said there are parameters that probation services must follow, but will essentially become a fish and tackle loaner site.

“In doing so, the commission will provide us with a lot of equipment — rods and tackle and gear we need to carry out the program. In fact, we’ve already received a lot of the materials,” she said.

She noted that three probation officers have received fishing trainer certification and have other officers who will volunteer to serve as mentors during fishing expeditions. Additionally, a stewardship component will be implemented to leave the area in “just as good or better shape” before departure.

Youth will receive instruction and lessons in the county’s waterway system, proper fish handling and other guidelines but are not required to have a fishing license as long as they are accompanied by a certified instructor. (Any individual under the age of 15 does not have to be licensed to fish state waterways, but the program will potentially have youths 16 and older participate in it.) 

“This is a lifetime skill,” said Fortna. “A lot of the kids we work with in the city may not have had the opportunity or never gone fishing. So we’re going to teach them a skill through the educational part of it, but also teach them all of the locations around the county that they’ve never been to, either.”

In other county business, the commissioners voted to:

  • Release $100,000 to Habitat for Humanity for the rehabilitation of three properties as part of Act 137 funding the county receives to administer HFH programs locally. The three projects are located at 1824 Chestnut St, 519 N. 11th St. and 125 N. 12th St. 
  • Provide funding for two hotel tax grant fund requests in the amount of $5,287.50 for the Lancaster Kennel Club for its Red Rose Classic All Breed Dog Show at the expo center and $5,000 for the St. James Players to purchase an ultra short throw projector for projecting backdrops during live theater productions.
  • Accept the treasurer’s report as presented.
  • Agree to spend $7,698 as a one-time cost and a $500 monthly maintenance fee for a cloud-based records system to track hotels and other lodging providers who pay funds into the county’s hotel tax fund program. A future functionality will allow hotel owners to pay their fees directly into the system, which will be administered by the county’s treasurer’s office.
  • Proclaim April as 811 Safe Digging Month.
  • Grant one real estate tax exemption for a 100% disabled veteran.
  • Approve the minutes of their Feb. 16 meeting
  • Authorize various personnel transactions. 
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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...