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Mental Health and Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services boards merge Monday

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ELYRIA — On Monday, Lorain County no longer will be the only county in the state to operate the Board of Mental Health and Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services separately.

After months of planning, debating and discussing, the county commissioners merged the two boards and named the new 18 state- and county-appointed board members. The merger takes effect Monday.

“This is a celebration. It’s a new day in Lorain County to better provide services for those battling mental illness and addiction,” County Commissioner Matt Lundy said.

The merger of the two agencies was announced in March with a July 1 deadline. Lorain County had been the only county of the 88 in Ohio that operated the agencies separately. With the merger, commissioners believe it will improve efficiency and broaden the effectiveness of the services, according to the resolution.

The commissioners appointed 10 to the board while the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services appointed eight.

The commissioners appointed Karen McIlwaine, Sandra Premura, James Schaeper, Regan Phillips and Kreig Brusnahan as recommended by ADAS; and Hope Moon, Dan Carrero, Dan Urbin, as well as former county commissioner current Lorain Municipal Court Clerk Ted Kalo and Inez James.

The commissioners interviewed the 10 recommended members from each board, but appointed only four of those recommended. Two board-recommended candidates the commissioners hoped to appoint had to withdraw due to work conflicts.

Of the 10 county-appointed board members, three previously served on one of the boards. Additionally, three other appointees are new to either board — James, Brusnahan and Phillips.

Lundy said he and commissioners made sure to appoint candidates who saw passion in both sides of addiction and mental health services as well as being open to the merger.

“These individuals know firsthand the impact that mental illness and addiction can have on loved ones,” he said.

Commissioner Sharon Sweda said the appointees would need to lead in representing the diverse county. During the meeting, Sweda said she and the commissioners wanted to make sure their appointees “had the skill, talent, heart and time that it was going to require to move and create this new board to work on behalf of the citizens and to reflect our community not just in diversity, not just in shared experiences, but also what part of the community they touch.”

The state already announced its appointments in May as Arthur Cleary, Kara Keating Copeland, David DiTullio and Pamela Waite of ADAS; and David Ashenhurst, Tim Carrion, Denise Eacott and Karen Sutera of mental health.

The board members will have a term lasting from Monday to June 30, 2023. All employees under both boards will remain employed unless the merged board decides otherwise.

The boards will merge at midnight Monday as the Lorain County Board of Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health. The newly merged board will meet 6 p.m. Monday in the county board room on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building, 226 Middle Ave.

In late May, Lorain County Board of Mental Health Executive Director Kathleen Kern announced she would resign effective Sunday. She called the merger process chaotic and said county officials were not giving enough weight to input from the respective boards.

Contact Bruce Walton at (440) 329-7123 or bwalton@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Facebook @BWalton440 or Twitter @BruceWalton.


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