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CONTACT:  ALAN L. JENNINGS  610-248-9900

Community Action Challenges Hospital to Respond to Its Own Needs Assessment

In the wake of Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas Judge Brian Johnson’s evasion of retired judge Robert Young’s challenge of the adequacy of Lehigh Valley Health Network’s charitable care, the executive director of the Community Action Lehigh Valley says Judge Johnson, understandably, looked only at the legal side of the issue.  As a community, Alan Jennings said, we now have the responsibility to elevate the moral argument on the unmet health needs in the region, especially the inadequacy of the availability of behavioral health care.

Calling those among us who have mental illness or addiction, “the final frontier of the campaign for human rights in America,” Jennings cited the “abject inadequacy” of services as a “moral failure of historic scale.” Having slipped the grip of the court, Jennings called on the hospital’s leadership to respond to its own needs assessment and acknowledge that behavioral health needs demand far greater attention than our community has given them and to lead the region with both resources and expertise in a comprehensive campaign to respond to the epidemic of mental illness and addiction.

“Behavioral health problems impede every aspect of our region’s quality of life,” Jennings said. “They impair worker productivity, destroy families, fill our jails, cost infinite amounts of money and diminish the success of even the best healthcare in the Lehigh Valley. LVHN CEO Brian Nester, an extraordinarily gifted entrepreneur and physician, has an historic opportunity and obligation to lead the way.”

Acknowledging that there are many other unmet health needs and that we all have an obligation to find solutions, Jennings argues that the depth of behavioral health needs and the inadequacy of services should put the issue in the front of the triage line.

Jennings reported that he has met with dozens of representatives of non-profit organizations and spoken with countless people in the region, all of whom have stories to tell. “Every one of us, while still sensitive to the stigma attached to mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction, has a friend, a family member or a coworker who struggles to cope,” Jennings said. He offered Community Action’s assistance in the endeavor to Nester.

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