SHEFFIELD TWP. — After an almost two-week delay, the merger of the Lorain County boards of Mental Health and Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services is moving forward, after an agreement was reached Wednesday evening.
The boards were slated to merge July 1, but the process was stopped after Lorain County Common Pleas Judge Chris Cook granted a temporary restraining order filed by the Board of Mental Health, which has been vocal in expressing its concerns about the merger process and appointments to the new board. Wednesday evening, the Board of Mental Health voted 11-3 to accept an agreement from the commissioners, which was based on an agreement the board had sent to the commissioners earlier that day during negotiations.
Lorain County is the last county in the state to have separate drug addiction and mental health boards.
Charles Neff, associate director of the Board of Mental Health, declined to specify the details of the agreement, other than it concerns two of the new board appointments.
“I would say, from my perspective, I’m thrilled that we came to an agreement,” he said. “I think Judge Cook will be thrilled that we came to an agreement, and I think it’s great for everybody but particularly people in our community who rely on the services that they know there’s a unified board coming together to work on the problems that need fixed, instead of a warring faction.”
Commissioner Matt Lundy said he was happy the groups had come to an agreement but also declined to specify what that was until a special commissioners meeting slated for 9 a.m. today. During that meeting the commissioners will vote to update the resolution to merge the two boards to reflect any changes based on this new agreement, as well as set a first meeting date of the new board. From there, it will be up to the board to set its meeting schedule, committee structure and elect officers.
Commissioner Sharon Sweda agreed with Lundy, clarifying the commissioners had agreed to accept the Board of Mental Health’s offer, which was then sent back to the board for the vote it took Wednesday.
“I’m glad it’s going to be resolved,” she said. “The most important thing is that we can now begin to move forward offering our community the services that intended all along.”
Cook plans to have a hearing sometime after the commissioners’ meeting this morning regarding the agreement, but declined further comment until everything was signed and delivered to him.
“I have been advised by the lawyers that it appears that there has been a resolution and I’m very, very pleased about that fact,” he said Wednesday evening.
Neff said the merger should not affect clients’ services or the staff employed under the mental health or addiction services boards — and may improve coordination between the two boards once they are operating under the same guidelines.
“We just have to kind of meld things together and do things a little differently, and the board will have to figure out how this is going to happen going forward,” he said.
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