Jefferson County Prevention and Recovery Board turns things around

LISTENING IN — Jefferson County commissioners Dave Maple, left, and Tom Graham listen to reports from department heads delivered through computer Thursday. -- Linda Harris

STEUBENVILLE — The Jefferson County Prevention and Recovery Board finished the year with a profit, albeit a slim one.

But, compared to the $300,000 deficit the department reported a year ago, Jefferson County commissioners couldn’t have been happier when Executive Director Pam Petrilla said they’d finished their budget year just over $14,000 in the black.

“Are you doing better than last year?” Commissioner Dave Maple asked.

“We certainly are,” said Petrilla, who credits “a very careful watch on expenses” with turning things around financially, “and we did bring additional grants into our county.” She said they expanded some programs, while others are all new.

“We’re seeing more people in our medicated assistance program,” she told Maple. “There are more services we’re offering, our outreach is better to smaller communities, as well as the revenue we’ve been able to bring in for new programs.”

Petrilla, who is retiring Nov. 1, said the changes they’ve made have improved outcomes, including significantly reducing overdose deaths.

“I think what was most needed was some state opioid response grants. Those target individuals with substance abuse disorders,” she said. “I think that money has been extremely useful. But one of the other pieces we’re so proud of is our Narcan program, we’re getting more of it out into the community. We’re reaching more individuals, trying to decrease the number of overdose deaths in the community.”

Narcan reverses the effects of heroin and other opiates in individuals who have overdosed, restoring breathing.

Other projects the recovery board has been involved in include working with Municipal Judge John Mascio to develop a mental health court; working with health departments in the tri-county area as well as the Family Recovery Center to expand the Harm Reduction Program, a needle exchange program designed; to reduce blood-borne infections; and expanding PAX, a universal intervention used by teachers and schools throughout Jefferson County to teach children self-regulation, self-management and self-control.

“It’s better than last year,” Commissioner Tom Graham said after the meeting. “It seems like they corrected that (deficit), which is good.”

Graham said the board’s focus is “helping as many individuals as they can.”

“Overall, the report is very good,” he said. “Obviously, a lot of people need help.”

Petrilla’s meeting with commissioners was one of two Thursday to be conducted virtually, allowing commissioners to observe social distancing guidelines and comply with the state’s crowd-size restrictions. The other was with department heads and elected officials who updated commissioners on their plans for ramping up services while protecting staff from unnecessary exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

Partitions and masks will be part of office protocol for most. Other protections include limits to the number of outsiders allowed to enter, limiting the number of staff members interacting with the public as well as trying as much as possible to keep employees at their station rather than have them walk back to their desks between customers.

They’re also encouraging customers to pay bills online or phone, use the dropbox or send checks in the mail and wear gloves in the event cash is exchanged.

“The way I look at it, each department head or elected official knows their own needs, how to service the public,” Maple said.

“Anything they need, we’ll provide,” Graham added. “But it’s up to each department head to (tell us).”

Commissioners approved change orders that will initially add $68,000 to the Amsterdam sewer project cost, but Water and Sewer Department Director Mike Eroshevich said the county could end up saving a lot of money.

“It’s a unit-priced contract,” Eroshevich said. “When we get to the end of the project, there’ll be a final project change order that rectifies (change orders with the original design). So even though we’re adding to it, it will end up resulting in a savings … but we won’t see it until we get to the end of the project and do a final reconciliation.”

The change orders approved Thursday were necessitated by flooding during recent rain events and a need to elevate equipment above areas with a potential to flood, commissioners were told.

“The pump station site is not in a designated 100-year flood zone,” engineering consultant Tom Hardwick said. “But just before the project started … there was some torrential rain in that area and that property was under several inches of water. We just felt, in talking to the contractor, it would be better to add a little more height to the pump station so (it would be protected) if localized flooding occurred again.”

Hardwick said with the change orders that have been processed, “right now we’re almost $160,000 under budget on this project for sewers.”

“I feel like we’re early in the game and a lot of changes are taking place,” Maple said. “I know there’s a lot of moving parts on this project, you expect to see them. Just be cautious and keep us informed as you go. Right now all we’re voting on is increases, but we’re hearing savings is coming.”

Hardwick said the contractors seem to be running a month or two ahead of schedule.

“Let’s just leave it there, we’re a month or two ahead of schedule and $160,000 under budget,” Maple said.


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