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Commissioners designate LG Health as official leader of opioid fatality review team; approve ARPA funding for Tec Centro (update)

Lancaster County Government Center, 150 N. Queen St. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

(Update: On Wednesday, the commissioners unanimously approved Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s appointment as lead agency for the Overdose Fatality Review Team; and approved the ARPA allocations discussed Tuesday.)

Previously reported:

The Lancaster County commissioners will vote Wednesday on appointing Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health as the lead agency for the county’s Overdose Fatality Review Team.

They will also vote on $634,663 in American Rescue Plan Act allocations, including $500,000 for the Spanish American Civic Association to buy equipment for welding and metal fabrication training at its Tec Centro West facility.

Overdose Fatality Review

The Overdose Fatality Review program, which is in place now, involves team members assessing what happened with a particular opioid overdose, and using the information to assess risk factors and possible service gaps and figure out how to save lives in the future.

Brenda Buescher

“We have a very willing group of people,” said Brenda Buescher of LG Health. “The goal is that everybody brings what they know.”

Up to now the process has been local and grassroots. Under a 2021 state law, however, if the county designates a formal lead agency, that authorizes it to access more sources of data, including medical records, Buescher said.

Linda Schreiner, county purchasing director, said the county started the process in May 2022. In early June, it put out an “application of interest,” and LG Health was the only provider to respond.

Commissioner Josh Parsons noted that the OFR team is part of Joining Forces, the county coalition started in 2017 to combat the opioid epidemic.

“The most important part has really been the data, and making changes that are driven by the data,” he said. “It is a lot of work, but it’s important work.”

Commissioner John Trescot asked questions about where the data goes. It’s kept by the OFR team, Buescher said, though a basic report is submitted to the state each year.

“It’s very helpful,” Commissioner Ray D’Agostino said, “so we can help those who are struggling, or before they start to struggle with addiction.”

Tec Centro West

José Lopez, Director of the Spanish American Civic Association (SACA) presented the Tec Centro West project to the commissioners.

José Lopez

It is a holdover from the county’s first round of community ARPA allocations, delayed while SACA put the rest of its funding in place. (The county is accepting applications for a second round of ARPA community grants through the end of the month.)

The total cost is $1.27 million, Lopez said, with completion anticipated in summer 2024. SACA has grants of $500,000 from Lancaster city and $100,000 from the Armstrong Foundation and New Markets Tax Credits totaling $171,000, so the county’s $500,000 will be the final “last-in” funding component.

All three board members expressed their support for the program, which is a partnership between Tec Centro and Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology.
“It’s a great program,” Parsons said. “We’re always talking about workforce development and creating high-paying, family-sustaining jobs.”

“I can’t speak highly enough about the program,” said Trescot, noting the combination of hands-on learning and technical grounding.

“That partnership has been really generating some good results,” D’Agostino said.

Besides voting on SACA’s ARPA request, the commissioners will consider allocating another $134,663 in ARPA for county IT needs. The bulk is to go toward Zoom licenses for magisterial district justice offices, the remainder for e-recording software in the Recorder of Deeds office.

Clean Water Initiative

Later in the meeting, the board heard from Allyson Gibson, executive director at Lancaster Clean Water Partners, and Matt Kofroth, assistant district manager for the Lancaster County Conservation District, about their ongoing work to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed in general, and the Conestoga River in particular.

Highlighting 11 projects implemented with ARPA funding, the team noted projects at Conewago Creek in Mount Joy Township and at Gross Run in Ephrata Borough and the development of an access plan for the Conestoga Water Trail — a formal planning resource for those working on making the waterway more of an environmental and recreation hub.

As to what specifically is being done on the Conestoga, the two noted that one of the implementations involves more water quality data coming from monitoring stations.
Five more continuous in-stream monitors will be placed in the river, for a total of 15 directed by the partnership. Kofroth pointed that other organizations have monitors in the river, too.
A collaborative approach will allow people to share this data, and new upgrades will decrease the time that it takes for the information to reach the public.
“It’s amazing,” said Gibson. “We are excited about what is coming next.”