Luzerne County seeking advisory board applicants

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - jandes@timesleader.com
German -
Vallet -
The Luzerne County Courthouse. -

An unpaid seat recently opened up on the board overseeing the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township, and at least eight citizens are interested.

Nine are on the eligibility list for the Luzerne County Community College Board of Trustees.

While welcoming this volunteerism, Luzerne County Council Vice Chairman Eugene Kelleher said he’s frustrated it isn’t at such a high level for advisory boards covering two county human service branches — Children and Youth and Mental Health and Developmental Services.

“We just don’t seem to get the number of people we’d like involved in these wonderful organizations that are helping people who have needs,” said Kelleher, who oversees the council committee that screens and publicly interviews applicants for board, authority and commission appointments made by council.

Applications are posted on the authorities/boards/commissions page at www.luzernecounty.org.

Lack of quorum

Two or three Children and Youth advisory meetings could not be held last year due to the lack of a quorum, said Deanna German, the agency’s deputy director.

Nine seats are currently filled, and the board’s bylaws require 9 to 24 members.

At the board’s recommendation, council is expected to vote soon on a bylaw revision reducing the required range from 5 to 15 members, according to the county law division. The change was recommended due to difficulties recruiting and retaining volunteers to serve, the division said.

The 13-member Mental Health and Developmental Services advisory board, which represents both Luzerne and Wyoming counties, has eight filled seats and five vacancies. At least one meeting was discounted due to no quorum, said Tara Vallet, the agency’s administrator.

Filling the mental health board’s vacancies is more challenging because specific qualifications are required:

• Two physicians, preferably a pediatrician and psychiatrist, which could include someone in residency.

• A member of a community group that represents the economically, socially and culturally disadvantaged.

• A representative of a local health/welfare planning organization or hospital.

• A member of a local citizens’ organization active in the mental health field.

Those with county contracts are barred from serving, which further limits the pool, county officials said.

In addition to attending 10 meetings held at noon each year, Children and Youth advisory board members are asked to participate in at least one of the agency’s team meetings with family clients, the bylaws state.

“They see the other side of things that we can’t discuss publicly because of confidentiality,” German said, noting board members have provided helpful input for clients.

Vallet said her agency’s board meets quarterly and helps shape programs, which is why it’s important for all groups to be represented.

“It’s really helping to guide us so the people we serve are living life to the fullest,” Vallet said.

Advisory board members also “provide a voice” for the agencies, said county Human Services Division Head Lynn Hill.

“We serve the most vulnerable in the community. When you help us help them, it raises your community up.”

German
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_deanna-1.jpegGerman

Vallet
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_vallet-1.jpgVallet

The Luzerne County Courthouse.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_web1_luzerne-county-courthouse-1-4.jpgThe Luzerne County Courthouse.

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

jandes@timesleader.com

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.