Community leaders receive Community Rural Health Leader of the Year Award

November 10, 2018

University Park, Pa. – The Lycoming County Commissioners were presented with the 2018 Community Rural Health Leaders of the Year Award by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH) at a ceremony on Nov. 9 at the Lycoming County Courthouse in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

The award was presented before Rural Health Week in Pennsylvania, Nov. 12-16, by Lisa Davis, director of PORH and outreach associate professor of health policy and administration at Penn State. Rural Health Week encompasses Nov. 15, which is National Rural Health Day, established in 2011 by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health.

The Community Rural Health Leader of the Year Award recognizes an outstanding leader(s) who organized, led, developed or expanded an exemplary multi-dimensional rural community health program or initiative and who has demonstrated leadership to a rural community health program.

The nomination, submitted by Matt McDermott, director of administration for Lycoming County and Tonya Anderson and administrative manager for the county, lauded the commissioners and their partners for their leadership in reducing the number of inmates with mental illness through the creation of partnerships and the sharing of resources and volunteers.

The nomination noted that historically, Lycoming County Commissioners have demonstrated bipartisan collaboration on behalf of their constituents, while maintaining their individual beliefs, morals and values. Despite differences, the commissioners have recognized that government must solve problems and have held sacred the democratic process to benefit the health and welfare of their constituents.

Lycoming County Commissioners R. Jack McKernan, Tony Mussare and Richard Mirabito have continued this legacy by adopting “Stepping Up to Reduce the Number of People with Mental Health Illness in Jails,” a national initiative. Another initiative, addressing mental health illness and overpopulation in Lycoming County prison, trained all mental health prison staff in mental health first aid, with crisis intervention training implemented soon after. The Lycoming County Prison System implemented a mental health roster which identifies every inmate's level of mental health for security purposes and to assist those inmates needing additional services. A mental health court has been established and a forensic team meets monthly to develop wellness strategies and treatment plans for these inmates with mental illness. 

The Lycoming County Criminal Justice Advisory Board, established in September 2002, is a local criminal justice planning group that includes representatives from the county courts, corrections, law enforcement, community-based organizations, executive branch of county government, health and human service agencies, and victims' services agencies. These members collaborate to improve the safety of citizens by providing a forum for communication about critical issues and concerns and to evaluate, analyze, plan and recommend action that facilitates the efficiency and effectiveness of the overall system.

The commissioners support “Saving Lives for Zachary,” a grassroots organization created by a mother who lost her son to a heroin overdose. The group is dedicated to educating and informing families, the community and children about the dangers of drug use and addiction. 

Mussare spearheaded the support of the “Too Smart to Start” anti-drug program for youth ages five to 13. The Lycoming County Commissioners, in collaboration with others, funded this program to distribute water bottles to youth engaged in local programs, with the inscribed drug free message “Too Smart to Start” and an informational bookmark to help parents, teachers, coaches and other mentors talk to kids about drugs and provide local resource numbers.

The commissioners also are addressing rural illiteracy and advocate and support the James V. Brown library and recognize that improving childhood literacy rates will help reduce future incarceration rates.

PORH, a partnership between the U.S. Federal Government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Penn State, was established in 1991 to enhance the health status of rural Pennsylvanians and strengthen the delivery and quality of care in the communities in which they live. Each year, the organization presents awards to recognize rural health programs and individuals who have made substantial contributions to rural health in Pennsylvania. To learn more about the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, visit  

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 11, 2018