Funding OK’d for regional mental health facility in area

The Lycoming/Clinton Joinder Board approved an amendment to its residential services agreement Wednesday to include start-up funding for a new regional mental health facility.

The board voted 3-0 to amend its agreement with Community Services Group, of Williamsport, which provides community-based, residential rehabilitation services for its local group homes, to reflect $90,000 in similar services to be administered at a new “regional enhanced personal care home.”

Voting yes were Lycoming County Commissioners Tony Mussare and Ernie Larson and Clinton County Commissioner Pete Smeltz. Lycoming County Commissioner Jeff Wheeland and Clinton County Commissioners Joel Long and Jeff Snyder were absent.

The regional home is an initiative of the state Department of Public Welfare known as the Community Hospital Integration Project, which offers additional funding to participating entities in exchange for a reduction in occupied bed space at state mental health hospitals.

The board was awarded the project in March of this year, said Deborah Duffy, the joinder’s HealthChoices administrator.

Working in conjunction with Northumberland, Columbia, Snyder, Union, Montour, Schuylkill, Bradford and Wayne counties, the board will be a partner in the regional home, which will offer between 15 and 16 beds, three of which will be for “diversion or stepdown from Danville State Hospital,” Duffy said, meaning they will be available for patients who either are in need of a place to go or are transitioning out of Danville.

None of the participating counties have enough referrals to sustain the project individually, Duffy said, “which is why the regional approach is more cost-efficient.”

The facility itself will be built in Union County. All of the necessary funding comes from state sources, Duffy said.

In other business, the board approved mental health training seminars for law enforcement – including police, corrections, and probation and parole officers – to be administered by the Philadelphia Mental Health Care Corp. The company’s Family Training and Advocacy Center for Mental Illness will conduct several seminars until June 30 of next year, at a cost not to exceed $10,000.

Duffy said the first session, held in April, was “very successful” and will help law enforcement to better identify those with mental illnesses and gauge their response accordingly.

The next joinder board meeting will be held at 9 a.m. June 18 at the Lock Haven satellite office, 8 N. Grove St., Suite A.