This story has been edited to reflect that the mental health and addiction boards are merging, not planning to merge.
ELYRIA — Lorain County is the only county in Ohio to have separate boards for mental health and alcohol and drug addiction services.
Commissioner Matt Lundy said Wednesday that having addiction and mental illness under the same board could improve the county’s ability to address the opioid epidemic, and commissioners voted to merge the two board and instructed county officials to implement the merger by July 1.
In a report from Altarum, a nonprofit research and consulting organization, 6,398 people in Lorain County suffered from some form of opioid use disorder in 2016. With the opioid abuse still prevalent in the county, Lundy said he believes the merger is needed to better combat the epidemic.
“Let’s change the daily conversation of one group only talking about mental health while another group only talks about addiction,” Lundy said. “Let’s make the daily mission about working together by sharing knowledge and resources to better serve our community.”
County Administrator Jim Cordes and an assistant prosecutor will meet with both board leaders to create a merger plan, which commissioners expect to be presented by July 1.
Elaine Georgas, executive director of the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board, said the merger has been brought up in conversations lately. The boards have worked on a joint board for various initiatives and programs, but a merger would unite the two on all subjects. Georgas said she and her board will remain committed to the goal of treating addiction and substance abuse whether the merger happens or not.
Lundy hopes the merger can be accomplished and looks forward to the good it will do for the county and its residents.
“I believe this merger is the responsible thing to do and makes common sense,” Lundy said. “I believe we are stronger when we work together, and that by working together, we will find a more effective way to treat people battling the disease of mental illness and the disease of addiction in Lorain County.”
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