Salisbury Press

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Thursday, June 29, 2017 by CHRISTOPHER DRYFOOS Special to The Press in Local News

Board approves contract with Magellan Behavioral Health

Lehigh County Board of Commissioners approved an amended agreement of its contract with Magellan Behavioral Health June 14. Sponsored by Commissioner David Jones, the resolution served as a new milestone in the board’s relationship with Magellan.

The company, which provides behavioral health care to qualifying residents, had been controversial in years prior.

Jones, who had previously voted against extending the county’s contract with Magellan several years ago, praised the company’s improvements in their services.

“They have been very, very responsive,” Jones said. “They have gone out of their way to meet our demands and expectations.”

Jones added public complaints within committee meetings about the company have decreased.

Commissioner Brad Osborne noted how the efforts of the human services department and the board of commissioners helped the situation improve dramatically, despite the “painful” discussions and debates that preceded it.

“I can’t be more pleased than I am today to say that this is now an easy thing to approve this evening,” Osborne said.

The resolution was passed with no opposition.

County Director of Services Rick Molchany continued a presentation on budgetary updates which began in a committee meeting earlier in the day. Molchany noted some projects may be postponed if the facility upgrade of Cedarbrook Nursing Home is given clearance.

“Our goal continues to be to move the projects as quickly as we can through,” Molchany said. “But we don’t want to do a project foolishly just to spend the money. We want to make sure that we’re receiving the best value we can from the project that’s been approved.”

Jones suggested a larger discussion on the capital plans, as well as previous allocations and decisions, take place at the next capital meeting.

Jones was also commended for his work on My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative started by President Barack Obama in 2014 to provide more opportunities to urban youths. Jones serves as executive director for the initiative’s branch in the Lehigh Valley. MBK exceeded its fundraising goal in 2017, allowing it to gain access to the remaining money as specified in its contract.

Commissioner Percy Dougherty congratulated Jones on the success of the program and also suggested a similar model could be employed in the prison system to decrease repeat offenses.

“Education is the key across the board, whether it’s for the youth or also in our county jail,” Dougherty said.

In old business, seven bookshelves were donated to the Allentown Public Library from the county law library. Osborne sponsored the bill and it was quickly passed.

The board also approved a $25,000 grant to the Borough of Coplay for storm sewer rehabilitation projects. The grant money is being reallocated to this cause after it was declined by Community First Fund in 2016. Sponsored by Commissioner Michael Schware, the bill passed.

In new business, the board passed a resolution which allows Tuway Communications to create a Regional Esinet Infrastructure. This system would consolidate the county’s 911 center. The $2.8 million project is what Osborne described as “phase one” of an overall $18 million project. The board also waived an advance written notice requirement for Tuway Communications.

A bill approving an agreement with the borough of Catasauqua, which would commit Catasauqua to use Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant money to design a portion of a trail owned by Lehigh County, was read for the first time. It will be voted on at the next meeting.