Stairways in the News

Stairways awarded with donations

Monday, January 30, 2017

Donations from the GE Employees Community Services Fund and Sportsmen’s Athletic Club have helped kick the New Year off in grand style for Stairways Behavioral Health.

The donations, each $5,000, benefit Stairways’ Client Assistance Fund, which provides direct aid to clients in need of financial help for basic things not covered by other community assistance resources. The fund is primarily driven by Stairways employee payroll deductions.

Donations for the fund create a safety net for our clients when there is nowhere else to turn, said Kim Stucke, Stairways chief development officer.

“These donations are so precious to SBH,” she said. “A helping hand goes a long way to improving one’s mental well-being. Without donors like these, SBH would not be able to meet the level of client need.”

Based upon giving history, Stucke said a $5,000 donation will assist 60 clients or more.

Each donation represents a significant payment contributed collectively by hard-working individuals.

The Employee Services Fund manages personal contributions made by employees through payroll withholdings and partial matching funds from General Electric. Each year, the fund is responsible for dispersing more than half a million dollars through philanthropic donations throughout the Erie area.

Rob Celeski, chairman of the local fund’s board of directors, presented Stairways with the check Jan. 20. The gift is the third donation the Employee Services Fund has made to Stairways. The group also contributed $5,000 in June 2015 and has also given to BLOOM Collaborative.

Stairways also received a contribution from a familiar source earlier in January, as the Sportsmen’s Club also donated $5,000.

The Sportmen’s Club, 2727 W. 8th St., is a social organization that dates back to the late 1930’s and promotes recreation, social activity and good fellowship through a variety of sports and activities. Stairways also enjoys a close relationship with the club, having received previous donations as well.

To show its appreciation for the gifts, Stairways donated pieces of client artwork to both the Employee Services Fund and the Sportsmen’s Club.

The donations come at a welcome time for Stairways, as Client Assistance requests have increased so far this fiscal year, Stucke said.

In 2015-16, Stairways processed 244 requests, or on average about 20 requests per month. This year, SBH is processing on average about 28 requests per month. If this trend continues then SBH will experience an annual increase of 13 percent.

“This increase is a reflection of how difficult it is for people to survive who are living in poverty,” Stucke said.

The types of requests of late include assistance securing medical documents for citizenship, paying an electric bill due to other unforeseen personal circumstances, medication co-pays, gas cards, out-of-town medical appointment and diapers for new babies.

Above: (from left) Stairways Development officer Kim Stucke; Rob Celeski, chairman of GE Employee Community Services Fund; Laurie Bizzarro, Stairways blended case manager

Moffatt named CFO of Journey Health System

Thursday, August 25, 2016
Journey Health System, the support corporation of Stairways Behavioral Health, is proud to welcome Craig Moffatt its new Chief Financial Officer.

Moffatt replaces Tom Kirkwood, who retired after 31 years serving as CFO for Journey Health and Stairways Behavioral Health. He will oversee all financial operations for the support corporation as well as the affiliates: Beacon Light Behavioral Health System, Beacon Light Adult Residential Services, Forest/Warren Mental Wellness Association, and Stairways Behavioral Health.  

As the newest addition to the Executive Management team, Moffatt comes to the system with over 30 years of financial experience in the private sector and nonprofit arenas.  Moffatt is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants as well as the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants.  

“The role of CFO is important in any business, but especially so in a growing health system like ours,” said Richard Seager, President and CEO of Journey Health System.  “In a time when controlling costs, maximizing revenue opportunities, and providing an impeccable level of support to our affiliates is paramount, having a CFO with Craig’s credentials is essential to our continued strength.”

Moffatt will join a team of accomplished professionals who provide a broad range of support services to companies who care for children and adults suffering from mental health concerns across much of northern and central Pennsylvania.

Moffatt is a Certified Public Accountant and has earned his Master’s of Science degree in Taxation from the University of Akron in Ohio and his Master’s in Business Administration in Accounting from the University of Pittsburgh.   

Fairweather Lodge marks milestone, continues to grow

Thursday, June 23, 2016

At a recent meeting in State College, with several new lodge providers coming on board, it was discovered that Pennsylvania now proudly operates 40 Fairweather Lodges in 20 different Pennsylvania counties.

For the Fairweather Lodge Coalition that is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2016, it was further proof of the effectiveness of the Fairweather model.

The coalition is truly a partnership between providers and the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (OMHSAS), said Kim Stucke, Stairways Chief Development Officer and co-chair of the Coalition for Community Living, the national body that governs Fairweather lodges.

Stucke, along with former Stairways residential director Ed Dawson, helped start Erie’s – and the state’s— first Fairweather Lodge in 1999. Since then, that number has grown to seven lodges across the city thanks to grants from OMHSAS.

The Fairweather model is not only about recovery but about reclaiming one’s life. Housing, employment, self-governance and peer support highlight the positive impact that this program has had on the lives of persons with mental illness.  Over 200 people have chosen to reclaim their lives by embarking on the Fairweather journey.

But it shows no signs of stopping there.

Based upon the success of the Pennsylvania Fairweather Lodge Program, OMHSAS is launching a new statewide initiative to develop Fairweather Lodges for veterans. Funding will be made available with the first veteran lodges coming onboard in Erie, Venango and Cumberland counties.

This initiative will also provide an opportunity to explore the viability of agribusiness opportunities for veteran lodges located in rural areas. The Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilition, in conjunction with university support, has expressed an interest in collaborating to bring this opportunity to fruition.

Fairweather Lodges continue to thrive thanks to the commitment and dedication of its members and leadership. 

above: Kim Stucke helped first open the doors to Erie's Fairweather Lodges.

Stairways receives donations from GE Employees Community Service Fund

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Presque Isle’s Rotary Pavilion provided a scenic backdrop for philanthropy and gratitude on June 10, as Stairways accepted a $5,000 donation from board members of the General Electric Employees' Community Service Fund.

The GE Employee’s Community Service Fund was formed to manage personal contributions made by employees through payroll withholdings and partial matching funds from GE. Through this Community Service Fund, GE employees in Erie accrued more than $800,000 last year to be applied toward charitable donations in the community.

Rob Celeski, chairman of the local fund’s board of directors, expressed pride in the generosity of Erie’s GE employees. “Often, what you hear about GE workers is about labor unions and contract negotiations, and an idea that we are always asking for more and interested in getting ourselves taken care of. The size of this fund, which represents personal contributions, shows instead that what we want is to do more and to take care of our community.”

The local GE workers identified Stairways for support, awarding a $5,000 gift to the Stairways’ Client Assistance Fund.

This client assistance fund is also primarily driven by Stairways employee payroll deductions, and provides direct aid to clients in need of financial help for basic needs not covered by other community assistance programs.

Stairways representatives attended the June 10 meeting of the local GE employee fund board of directors, to express thanks and present a selected piece of client artwork from Stairways’ own BLOOM Collaborative as a token of appreciation.

Executive director Valerie Vicari thanked the GE employee fund board members on behalf of Stairways.

“The generosity of community members like GE workers really keeps us going and able to provide more for our clients, things that really make a difference in their lives when they need it the most,” she said. “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Pictured, L-R, Front: Valerie Vicari (SBH), Christine Mitchell, Mary Ellen Hermann, Chuck Easton, Juanita Gangemi (SBH); Middle: David Volk, Jennifer Smicker, Rob Celeski, Laurie Bizzarro (SBH); Back: John Duchnowski, Dave Smock, John McGuigan, Jason Madden

·         The German Cultural Society of Erie said “Danka Schoen” to BLOOM Collaborative when it held its June meeting at the holistic art and wellness center the evening of June 11.

Some 75 club members experienced BLOOM’s artistic zeitgeist by creating fused-glass dreamcatchers and touring its 4-acre campus. The club also presented BLOOM director Lee Steadman with a small token of their appreciation for playing host in the form of a donation.

Erie Gives Set for Aug. 11

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mark your calendars for Aug. 11, when Stairways Behavioral Health participates in the fifth annual Erie Gives Day!

Stairways will need your help to make a success of Erie Gives, a day that is designated for philanthropic donations to nonprofit organizations in Erie.

From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., donors can visit or call 814-454-0843 to make a donation of $25 or more by using Visa, MasterCard and Discover cards. Stairways will then receive a prorated percentage of the $220,000 in matching funds contributed by GE Transportation, Erie Insurance, Presque Isle Downs and Casino, Eriez Magnetics, the Erie Community Foundation and an anonymous donor.

In 2014, Stairways raised $4,947.04 for the Client Wellness Fund, which helps support personal wellness efforts of clients by providing resources like nutritional activities, new sneakers and fitness memberships.

16th Annual Jerry Cline Employee Recognition Celebration

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Erie Outpatient Clinic physician Dr. Sean Su was honored as the Laura Wallerstein & Jerry Cline Distinguished Service Award winner at Stairways Behavioral Health’s employee recognition ceremony April 21 at the Bel-Aire Conference Center.

Employees and guests attended the breakfast to honor those having reached 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 40 years-of-service milestones in 2014, as well as the 2014 Employee of the Month recipients.  Stairways Executive Director Valerie Vicari (below, right) made the welcoming remarks to those in attendance.

Special congratulations go to Kim Stucke (below, middle), Stairways’ Chief Development Officer, for 40 years of distinguished service. Kim was presented with artwork created by local artist Stephanie Gwitt.dsfsdafasdfasdfsf

Also among special service anniversaries honored were Carlene Boykin with Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services and CROMISA, John Curtis from the Forensic Outpatient Clinic, Frankie Quinn from the Erie County Prison program, and Pamela Sagan from the Medical Information department, each for 25 years of dedicated service.

Su became the 24th recipient of the Distinguished Service Award since its inception in 1996. The award, named after Stairways founder Laura Wallerstein and the late Jerry Cline, a longtime human resources director, is bestowed upon the employee who best exemplifies the mission, vision and values of Stairways.

Su was nominated by 43 co-workers from the Erie Outpatient Clinic. Dr. Su’s nomination states:

During his time at Stairways, Dr. Su has been a critical part of the psychiatric team and a keystone in providing outpatient services. Most recently, Dr. Su has been serving as a full-time attending psychiatrist at the Erie Outpatient Clinic. His willingness to go above and beyond daily duties is only one example of his integrity and excellence in the field. Dr. Su’s leadership is commonly displayed as he is approached for advice, guidance, and direction by therapists, nurses, and psychiatry residents on a nearly daily basis. His diligence to serve those struggling with mental health issues is continuously displayed as he regularly sees individuals at a moment’s notice and during times that are reserved for him to do administrative work. His psychiatric treatment, evaluations, and recommendations have been integral in developing a thorough, holistic, and recovery oriented plan for the clients he works with. Dr. Su always displays a professional and courteous attitude toward others, earning the respect and gratitude of those for whom and with whom he serves. With never a negative thing to say, Dr. Su continues to be a role model and mentor for his coworkers by exhibiting respect, genuine care, and selfless service. Especially during recent times of transition, Dr. Su has been a beacon of optimism for change and continued growth, continually fostering a healthy and empowering environment for employees and consumers alike. He fully reinforces Stairways mission, vision, and core values of helping individuals with mental health needs work toward recovery and is more than deserving of this award.

Stairways was also honored to host founding volunteers Joan and Walter Harf, who provided a thoughtful invocation.  Also joining us were members of the Stairways Board of Directors, Board Chair, Dr. Kristine Nelson (left of Stucke), Attorney Dave Holland, Wayne Koble, Jim Renshaw, and Dr. Tony Snow

Stairways and Gannon team up to Send Silence Packing

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A powerful display of backpacks evoked reflective and somber emotions for those who passed by AJ’s way and Friendship Green on the campus of Gannon University Tuesday, April 14.

The bags, 1,100 in total, represented the number of college students lost to suicide each year, putting a face to the lives lost from the second-leading cause of death among people ages 18-23.

The display was part of Send Silence Packing, a traveling exhibit put on by Active Minds, a national young adult advocacy group dedicated to raising awareness and increasing dialogue on the topic of suicide and mental health among college students. Gannon’s Active Minds chapter helped bring the event that has toured colleges across the country since 2008 to the Erie area for the first time.

“The purpose of Send Silence Packing is to reach out to people and let them know that there are people who care and that there are resources for them to take advantage of,” said Gannon Active Minds vice president David McCartney. “From the beginning of the day to the very end, it was an emotional roller coaster for everyone involved.”

Students on their way to class frequently stopped to peruse the bags that contained personal stories and testimonials from families and loved ones. About 200 bags were affixed with photos of the deceased while some bags had even belonged to the students who took their life.

Active Minds secretary Julia Williams said the display left a significant impression.

"The impact Send Silence Packing had on the Gannon campus and Erie community was far more than I could have ever anticipated,” she said. “Viewing pictures of the display does not compare to the amplitude and significance of experiencing it in person.”

Representatives from Active Minds as well as mental health providers, such as Stairways Behavioral Health, the event’s main sponsor, were at the event to provide literature and information.

Williams and McCartney expressed their appreciation for everyone who helped made Send Silence Packing a hit.

“With the great partnerships from Gannon and the community, we made this a successful event that will hopefully allow those who are struggling to have the courage and strength to reach out for help,” McCartney said.

“This event would not have been possible without Stairways Behavioral Health or the help of our volunteers,” Williams said. “I am so grateful that we were able to bring such a meaningful event to Gannon and the Erie community with the universal message to get help. Give help. Save a life."

Gannon is one of 12 campuses to participate in Send Silence Packing’s Northeast spring tour.

Alyson Malmon founded Active Minds in 2003 as a junior at the University of Pennsylvania after her only brother, Brian, committed suicide at the age of 22.

Send Silence Packing was unveiled on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2008 with a keynote speech by former congressman Patrick Kennedy. Since then, more than 300,000 people in 85 cities across the country have experienced the event.

Stairways extends its gratitude toward Gannon Active Minds student members Ashly Wyrick, David McCartney, Julia Williams and Kaitlyn Hanick as well as Dr. Jodi Giacomelli, Active Minds advisor and Associate Director, Gannon Student Counseling Services, for their dedication in bringing Send Silence Packing to Erie.

In addition, Stairways would like to thank employees Kelly Roberts, Jana Johnson-Zybowski and Heather Filson for their involvement on the Erie County Suicide Task Force, as well as Heather May Caspar, Joe Cuneo, Amanda Ward and Ryan Gool, who helped make the event a success.

Stairways to unveil new program

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Stairways Behavioral Health has taken the lead in bridging the significant gap between hospitalization and community-based treatment in the Erie region by introducing a residential program designed for people who aren’t in need of hospitalization but require more intensive and structured treatment and supervision.

In cooperation with Erie County, Stairways has been approved to operate a long-term structured residential (LTSR) setting for stays longer than 30 days but not acting as a permanent residence which is anticipated to begin this summer.

The LTSR location will be situated on the third floor of Stairways’ Personal Care Home (PCH) on 810 Walnut St. A resident team consisting of a physician, nurses, mental health professionals and peers will guide recovery and treatment services in accordance with appropriate and well-formulated treatment plans.

Individuals referred to the LTSR setting will have differing needs depending on a number of factors and will be treated in the most effective manner relative to their diagnosis and condition, said Kevin Berceli, LTSR program director.

“We are looking to provide a safe and structured environment that will offer an array of clinical approaches,” Berceli said “As part of the state’s LTSR regulations, and our own recovery principals here at Stairways, we are excited to focus on individual’s mental, physical, and social needs as well as interventions that foster personal growth in these areas.”

Stairways intends to create programming elements that can be easily modified to meet the unique needs of each consumer. Trained staff members will be responsible for integrating therapeutic activities, such as psycho-educational and process-oriented individual and group therapy services.  The LTSR team will also include skill building sessions correlating to the eight dimensions of wellness as it relates to an individual’s treatment plan

LTSR residents, along with family and friends will be encouraged to take an active role in the recovery planning and community reintegration processes with the consumer’s informed consent. In preparation for successful program discharge, LTSR staff plan to accommodate referrals and help clients find effective community resources such as housing, mobile medication and case management services.

The implementation of an LTSR program will essentially complete Erie County’s continuum of care by offering the resident population an effective combination of treatment and rehabilitative interventions.

"With the addition of the LTSR," clinical supervisor Sarah Howard said, "we are excited to empower individuals in a culture of wellness and recovery that reduces hospitalizations and increases the use of their own strengths and supports within the community."

National suicide prevention event comes to Erie

Monday, March 23, 2015

Each backpack tells a story—a tragic one fraught with pain and suffering, but also one of latent hope for every passerby.

The bags to be displayed at Gannon University won’t contain supplies typically associated with college students, such as books, exams and errant, crumpled papers, but will instead be carrying the personal stories and testimonies of a life taken by suicide.

Gannon’s Active Minds chapter will host roughly 1,100 of these backpacks—symbolizing the number of students lost to suicide each year— on the school’s Friendship Green, West Seventh Street, and AJ’s Way, located between Seventh and Eighth streets, on Tuesday, April 14 as part of the Send Silence Packing® exhibit.

“This event brings up a lot of powerful emotions, but even more importantly an opportunity to have meaningful conversations about suicide and its impact on the community,” David McCartney, vice president of Gannon’s Active Minds chapter, said. “Seeing all of the backpacks will show students that it can happen to them or to those surrounding them and provide a chance for students to learn how to intervene in the best ways.”

Active Minds is a young adult advocacy group dedicated to raising awareness and increasing dialogue on the topic of suicide among college students. Each year, Active Minds displays Send Silence Packing, its signature awareness event, at campuses across the country.

Gannon’s Active Minds chapter, in coordination with Stairways Behavioral Health, is the first area school to bring Send Silence Packing to its campus. Gannon is one of 12 colleges that will host Send Silence Packing during its spring 2015 tour across the northeast that begins March 30.

Ashly Wyrick, president of Active Minds at Gannon, said Send Silence Packing is intended to increase discussion on the subject of suicide.

“This event will raise awareness to students, faculty, and community members that suicide does happen and it needs to be something we discuss to help prevent it,” Wyrick said.

In addition to the displayed backpacks, Send Silence Packing will also provide students, friends and family members the opportunity to obtain information and literature on mental health, suicide prevention and where to seek help.

The aesthetic element of more than 1,000 backpacks located in a high-traffic space on the downtown campus should draw the attention of people to the display, said Active Minds secretary Julia Williams.

“Send Silence Packing is an extremely powerful event because it targets passersby of the campus and community,” she said. “Its outreach does not require people to commit to attendance of the event. A student walking through campus on his or her way to class can experience a life changing and potentially life-saving display.”

While Gannon’s hosting represents Send Silence Packing’s Erie debut, it is not Active Minds’ first visit to the area.

While celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2011, Stairways hosted Alyson Malmon, Active Minds’ founder, for a speaking tour of three local colleges. As a result of her visit, Gannon and Mercyhurst universities each started student-run Active Minds chapters.

Malmon established Active Minds in 2003 as a junior at the University of Pennsylvania after her only brother, Brian, committed suicide at the age of 22.

Send Silence Packing was unveiled on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2008 with a keynote speech by former congressman Patrick Kennedy. Since then, more than 300,000 people in 85 cities across the country have experienced the event.

In case of inclement weather, the event will be held at inside Gannon’s Waldron Student Center on West Seventh Street.

For more information about Active Minds or Send Silence Packing and a complete list of locations, visit

BLOOM Collaborative artist's work featured, sold at Inaugural Art Exhibit

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

ERIE, Pa. – Artwork by Arthur Sprague, an Erie resident and artist at BLOOM Collaborative, was on display alongside that of such artists as Andrew Wyeth and Andy Warhol during the Inaugural Art Exhibit, a show celebrating the inauguration of Governor Tom Wolf at the Pennsylvania State Museum in Harrisburg.

Sprague and 54 other Pennsylvania artists were part of an exhibit commemorating Wolf’s installation as governor beginning on inauguration day and remained on display until Feb. 15. The exhibit was part of the Wolf inauguration’s focus on Pennsylvania’s culture and arts.

“The Inaugural Exhibit of the Pennsylvania Arts is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the vast amount of artistic talent in our commonwealth,” Wolf Inaugural Committee Co-chair Reid Walsh said.

Sprague’s piece, an acrylic painting he completed in 2014 titled “Blue Dog Squared, was purchased after its display at the exhibit.

Sprague creates his works at BLOOM Collaborative, a program of Stairways Behavioral Health formerly named Center City Arts, that aims to improve the lives of individuals with and without mental illnesses through arts and holistic wellness. While there, Sprague has found a way to relieve stress and relax by creating paintings on a variety of objects as his canvases while using a stream of consciousness technique to guide his brush.

Sprague joined famed artist and Op art pioneer Richard Anuszkiewicz as the only Erie artists to be featured in the exhibit that garnered entries from nearly 50 Pennsylvania museums and organizations. In all, artists submitted more than 150 works of art from diverse mediums for consideration.

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