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State College-Centre County mental health task force appoints new chairperson

Centre Daily Times - 1/22/2020

Jan. 21--BELLEFONTE -- With the appointment of a new chairperson, the State College-Centre County mental health task force aims to get back on track in its efforts to examine the local mental health system.

During Tuesday's board of commissioners meeting, Administrator Margaret Gray announced that Patricia Best will serve as chairwoman. She replaces Billie Willits, who died in November after a battle with cancer. The task force aims to evaluate Centre County's mental health system and crisis services. It was formed, in part, as a response to the fatal police shooting of 29-year-old State College resident Osaze Osagie.

Best served in the State College Area School District for 24 years, working as assistant superintendent and director of planning, research and communications, a guidance counselor and English teacher. She retired from the district in 2009. With over 40 years of experience in administrative leadership, education and counseling, Best's resume includes the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, Leadership Centre County, the Chamber of Business and Industry and Penn State.

"I am very pleased to contribute to the work of this task force," Best said in a statement. "While it is a challenging charge, it presents both an opportunity and a responsibility to produce informed, thoughtful, thorough and actionable recommendations to enhance our mental health crisis services for the benefit of those needing direct assistance, for those family and friends who love and care for them and for those many providers who deliver the services in diverse roles. It is a challenge we welcome."

The task force is comprised of 31 people. Those who sit on the task force represent a variety of perspectives and include county officials, representatives from area school districts, community members, medical professionals and law enforcement officers.

"We are very excited and pleased that Patricia has accepted the chair position for the task force," State College Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said in a statement. "The borough, Centre County and the task force are fortunate to have someone with her vast leadership experience and abilities leading this very important community endeavor."

The task force met Tuesday morning and received an update on the first phase of their work -- mapping and identifying the county's mental health resources. The force hoped to complete the first phase in mid-January but was delayed as they worked to find a new chairperson.

"I think the timetable is relatively the same; however, it may extend just a little bit beyond because we've lost some time over the last couple of weeks due to the transition of chair," Gray said. "They're going to try to stick to June (or) July for a report back to both boards."

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