Stairways in the News

Stairways Names New Executive Director

Monday, January 26, 2015

Erie, PA  – The Stairways Behavioral Health Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Valerie Vicari will serve as the organization’s new Executive Director. Vicari will assume leadership of the community mental health care provider in early February, 2015.

“Valerie brings to Stairways a distinguished career leading and managing behavioral health programs,” said Dr. Kristine Nelson, Stairways Behavioral Health Board President. “We are confident that Valerie will help move our organization forward, as well as focus on client needs first and foremost.”

Vicari has served in progressive leadership roles for 15 years with the PA Department of Public Welfare, Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS), including her most recent position as Director of the Division of Western Operations, with oversight of mental health programs in 46 counties across Western and Central Pennsylvania.

Vicari has been a leader in the implementation and management of the Pennsylvania Medicaid managed care program, HealthChoices. She has been instrumental in the development and statewide expansion of evidence based practices such as the Assertive Community Teams and Certified Peer Specialist programs.  

Vicari’s broad experience in federal and commonwealth health care reform initiatives will help keep Stairways properly positioned in a rapidly changing health care landscape.

“I believe individuals with behavioral health diagnosis can and should live in the community of their choice, with the very best treatment services wrapped around them,” said Vicari. “This can only happen when financially sustainable organizations, like Stairways, are rooted in best practices, and have clear expectations and outcomes to support their programs.”

Vicari received her undergraduate education from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She earned a Masters degree at Carlow College, Pittsburgh, Pa., in Professional Leadership for Management, Non-Profit Concentration.

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Stairways' McCarthy honored for community service

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Erie Housing And Development Services (HANDS) recently honored William F. McCarthy, President and CEO of Stairways Behavioral Health, with the Charles R. and Katherine L. Scalise Community Service award.

The honor is awarded to an individual who has made significant contributions in their advocacy and impact on public social issues regarding at-risk populations and for their leadership in producing work of lasting impact.

HANDS President/CEO Charles G. Scalise introduced McCarthy as the award’s recipient at the organization’s annual Community Celebration Nov. 6 at the Erie Art Museum. The award bears the name of Scalise’s parents and HANDS founding board members.

McCarthy has served as president and CEO since 1998 and previously held a number of positions since beginning his career at Stairways in 1973. He will retire at the end of the year.

In an address to the board members, volunteers, community partners and staff in attendance, McCarthy spoke about the common goal of living independently. He noted that it is “painfully clear that the men and women we serve want what we all want, including an address and a mailbox that announces with clarity ‘This is my place, I am home.’”

HANDS is a nonprofit organization that provides opportunities for residents, families and senior citizens by developing and managing quality affordable housing. HANDS has been instrumental in the production of more than 1,000 units of affordable housing in nine counties across Northwestern Pennsylvania.

3 Stairways Employees Earn Certification as Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioners

Monday, June 02, 2014

Three members of Stairways’ Behavioral Health’s Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (PRS) program have recently earned certification by the U.S. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (PRA).

The staff members, Brianna Circle, Michelle Jaggi and Jim Williams, have been recognized as Certified Psychiatric Rehabilitation Practitioners (CPRP) after passing a certification exam. More than one-fourth of Stairways’ Psych Rehab team is qualified as CPRPs, a standard set forth by the state.

More than 2,700 professionals have earned status as CPRP, a certification that fosters growth of a qualified, ethical and culturally diverse psychiatric rehabilitation workforce through enforcement of a practitioner code of ethics.

May is Mental Health - Mind Your Health

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Caring for Your Mind and Body

We all know about the importance about taking care of our health—eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising. Healthy habits positively influence how a person feels and how their body functions.

But good health involves not only caring for our body, but also our mind.

The fact is our mental health is integral to our overall health. Far too many Americans fail to incorporate a principal component into their health choices. Yet overall health and wellness are not possible without it.

What is mental health? If you were to ask your office mate, spouse or neighbor, they may respond that it is a “state of mind,” “being content with life” or “feeling good about yourself.”  Simply put, mental health is the ability to cope with daily life and the challenges it brings.

When a person has “good” mental health, they deal better with what comes their way. By contrast,

“poor” mental health—such as feeling overwhelmed by stress —can make even day-to-day life difficult.

Poor mental health can also significantly harm a person’s physical health. For instance, research shows that stress is closely linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. It also shows that people who feel depressed or chronically stressed may have a greater risk of physical illnesses.

The good news is there are many healthy choices and steps that individuals can adopt to promote and strengthen mental health—and overall health and well-being.

A healthy lifestyle can help to prevent the onset or worsening of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions, as well as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other chronic health problems.  It can also help people recover from these conditions.

This May is Mental Health Month, Stairways Behavioral Health is raising awareness of the role mental health plays in our lives and providing tips and resources so anyone can take steps to promote good mental health. Follow us on Facebook ( for your daily lifestyle tip.

These include building social support, eating with your mental health in mind, recognizing the signs of stress, and knowing when to reach out for help.

Just as Americans have learned there are things they can do to reduce their risk of heart disease and other illnesses, Stairways Behavioral Health wants to help people learn what they can do both to protect their mental health in tough times and also to improve their mental well-being throughout their lives.

We need to care for both our body and mind.

15th Annual Jerry Cline Employee Recognition Celebration

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Personal Care Home Director Heather Filson, left, stands with 2013 Distinguished Service Award winner Joyce Tresler. Filson nominated Tresler for the award.

Personal Care Home nurse Joyce Tresler was honored as the 2013 Laura Wallerstein and Jerry Cline Distinguished Service Award winner, highlighting the 15th annual employee recognition Celebration at the Bel-Aire Conference Center Tuesday morning.

Over 80 employees and guests attended the breakfast to honor 60 employees who passed five, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 40-year milestones. Together, these employees have accumulated 600 years of service. Special congratulations went to Bill McCarthy, Stairways President and C.E.O., for 40 years of distinguished service as well as Brenda Hampton, a rehab technician at the Residential Treatment Center for Adults (RTFA), and Tresler, who have each completed 25 years of dedicated service.

Tresler became the 23rd 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.

A licensed nurse since 1962, Tresler has maintained an active license for over 50 years and has focused her continuing dedication over the years toward the treatment of substance abuse. Stairways is blessed to have had the benefit of Joyce’s experience and education for over 25 years. During her tenure at Stairways’ Joyce has had a profound impact on numerous lives, including that of a client who expressed their gratitude in this account:

“When I started my journey to recovery, frankly it was an impossible dream. One of the most difficult parts of my recovery was taking ownership of my past (the dark side). Then came “Sergeant” Joyce…(This was meant in a positive way.) You asked me if I would put my past problems down on paper. That was the easy part. The next part was the most difficult, having to take full ownership of them. What I understand now but could not understand then was taking ownership of my life is the main key to recovery. Stairways needs to be proud of having your ability and talent on their staff. (Joyce you were blessed with a quality that could have only come from God). I feel blessed to have you as part of my new life. No matter what I will face in my future with GOD’S help, my recovery will stand firm.” 

Board Chairman Wayne Koble, Jim Ryan, board treasurer, and Andrea Hoffman, board member and Human Resources and Quality - Compliance Subcommittee chairperson, joined in the celebration and helped present the awards. Also in attendance were David Howell and Joan and Walter Harf, several original volunteers who helped founded Stairways in a space located above Nobil Shoe Store 53 years ago.

Opportunities Unlimited of Erie acquires cleaning service

Friday, April 04, 2014

From left: David Sawtelle, OU Manager of Custodial Contracts; Doug and Mary Barnes, former owners of Young's Cleaners; Leah Manino, of Northwest Savings Bank; Char Myers, OU director; Jennifer Poulson, OU Manager of Business Services; and Jeanne Daugherty, OU Manager of Supported Employment, complete the transfer of Young's to Opportunities Unlimited of Erie.

ERIE, Pa. – Opportunities Unlimited of Erie Inc. (OU), a nonprofit organization providing employment resources for individuals with disabilities, is proud to announce its acquisition of Young’s Cleaners, 4001 W. Ridge Road.

Young’s, a local leader in dry cleaning and laundry for 29 years, will continue to offer excellent service while serving as a work site for OU employees in an authentic business setting.   Employees will perform the day-to-day operations of the business under the supervision of the staff of OU and Young’s.

“This site will serve not only as a place for job training, job assessment and job placement,  but will also provide a stream of income that is needed to supplement our mission,” said Char Myers, Executive Director of Opportunities Unlimited of Erie.

Opportunities Unlimited offers employer incentives, supported employment and job coaching/training in custodial, laundry and specialty floor care services. OU is a recognized Employment Network by the Social Security Administration “Ticket to Work” program, which assists beneficiaries in obtaining employment and working toward financial independence.

Opportunities Unlimited is an affiliate of Stairways Behavioral Health, 2185 W. Eighth Street, Erie.

William F. McCarthy Receives Bankable Consulting Award

Monday, February 24, 2014

ERIE, Pa. – William F. McCarthy, President and CEO of Stairways Behavioral Health, has been named winner of the inaugural Bankable Consulting Excellence in Leadership Award at a ceremony and celebration at the ExpERIEnce children’s museum Tuesday, Feb. 18.

The honor is awarded to a successful area leader who is adept at “building self-esteem, setting demanding goals, always being positive, establishing good habits, mastering the art of communication, learning from role models, thriving on pressure, being ferociously persistent and surviving success" according to James W. Martin, principal of Bankable Consulting, LLC.

McCarthy is the President and CEO of Stairways, a provider of mental health services to Erie County residents for more than 50 years. He began his Stairways career 40 years ago and has served in a variety of positions before becoming the organization’s leader in 1998.

Martin presented McCarthy with the award, a jeweled globe, before an audience of 60.

“His passionate and knowledgeable actions on behalf of mental health issues and helping others is the real testament to his leadership,” Martin said. “We are fortunate to have the caliber of expertise and experience that he demonstrates and willing shares with others in our community.”

A total of 54 individuals were nominated in November and December at Nine national judges whittled the field to 10 before four finalists were revealed at the ceremony.

The 10 nominees were:

McCarthy, Luther Manus (Lifetime Community Inspiration), Linda Stevenson (Athena PowerLink Program), Edison Nicholson (Youth Leadership Institute of Erie), Homer Smith (Ambassador of Goodwill), Cynthia Lomax Muhammad (Black Yellow Pages), Paul Lukach (Crime Victim Center), Peggy Schwab (Community Volunteer), Denise Olczak (Mystic Mountain), Denise L. Kolivoski, MBA (NAMI of Erie County). 

The group of finalists consisted of McCarthy, Kolivoski, Lukach and Schwab.

McCarthy was nominated by Skip Simmons, owner and president of Abbatron, LLC., and member of Stairways Board of Directors, of which he is the immediate past Chairman.

Bankable Consulting is a consulting agency headquartered in Erie specializing in solutions for small business and nonprofit organizations.

10th Annual Center City Arts Holiday Show & Sale

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Friday, December 13 from 5:00-8:00 pm for the 10th Annual Holiday Show & Sale at Center City Arts, 138 E. 26th Street in Erie.

One of a kind gifts and original works of art including: Fused Glass, Jewelry, Painting, and Decorative Gourds. 

NEW this year! We are excited to announce a new collaboration with the Multicultural Community Resource Center adding a World Market featuring local artisans from more than 8 different cultures.

Join us at the most unique venue in town- our stunning studio in the historic Rose Koehler Curtze estate at 26th & Holland.

Center City Arts, a program of Stairways, creates opportunities for local artisans to earn income by bringing their products and their stories to the community.

The art is affordable, and the festive atmosphere is free!

Beacon Light Behavioral Health Systems And Stairways Behavioral Health Announce Plans To Affiliate

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Letter of intent explores integration of the behavioral health organizations

Erie, Pa. (October 7, 2013) --- Stairways Behavioral Health of Erie, Pa., and Beacon Light Behavioral Health Systems of Bradford, Pa. have announced that their Boards of Directors have signed mutual Letters Of Intent to affiliate under a common Support Corporation.

The two organizations have already enjoyed a long term working partnership in Warren County, providing both private and inpatient psychiatry and substance abuse services. This affiliation expands upon that successful partnership.

Beacon Light previously restructured according to the support corporation model, performing shared administrative and operational functions for its existing, distinct companies of Children’s Home of Bradford, Children’s Center for Treatment and Education, and Ramsbottom Center, Inc.

Through affiliation, Stairways board members and administrators will share an active role in governing the affiliated system, integrating administration with Beacon Light in the areas of finance, information technology and human resources, among others.

Beacon Light will continue to maintain local governance of its existing distinct companies, as will Stairways maintain local governance of its programs and services, including development of community wellness initiatives through Center City Arts, and support of its separate corporation, Opportunities Unlimited of Erie.

Stairways currently employs approximately 500 people in Erie and Crawford counties and generates yearly revenues of $25 million through comprehensive behavioral health programs, including adult treatment and rehabilitation, forensic, substance abuse and crisis services, child and adolescent programming, housing and vocational support, arts and community wellness.

“This affiliation greatly enhances our continuum of services,” said William F. McCarthy, President and CEO of Stairways.  “In this day and age, more than half of all health care organizations across the country are part of health systems. We see this move as congruent with the direction health care is moving. Stairways is choosing to combine our efforts with a like-minded, mission-driven organization like Beacon Light, strengthening our ability to sustain our mission into the future.”

Beacon Light employs over 650 people in McKean, Warren, Forest, Clearfield, Jefferson, Clearfield and Bradford counties, with a wide spectrum of child and family programs in residential and community settings. Beacon Light generates over $30 million in annual revenue.  They recently opened a new Adult Recovery Center in Warren which integrated all of their existing adult services under one roof.

“Stairways is a quality organization that is focused on adult services. Beacon Light from its very origin has been focused on children and families. The natural synergies that will occur from this affiliation will clearly strengthen both organizations” states Richard Seager, President and CEO of the Beacon Light Companies. “This will truly be a marriage of equals that in the end should bring us cost effective quality service to all age groups in the communities we serve”.

Under the proposed arrangement, Mr. Seager will serve as CEO of the affiliated Support Corporation, and current Stairways CEO William McCarthy will continue to lead Stairways.  “Beacon Light has a 110-year legacy of providing services to children and families in across Pennsylvania. Stairways has provided services to adults, families and children for over 50 years in Erie and Crawford Counties. Both organizations will always be ‘local’ companies, with local governance and direction, states McCarthy. “This affiliation helps us all to leverage resources, share expertise and achieve an impact that is truly remarkable”

“With the mounting costs of technology, overhead, regulatory compliance and service delivery, larger organizations have shown a greater ability to not only survive unexpected changes, but to actually thrive in spite of them.” states Seager

Once completed, the affiliation will make the Beacon Light companies and Stairways Behavioral Health the largest and most comprehensive behavioral health services provider across the entire Northwestern Pennsylvania region.

For more information about Beacon Light Behavioral Health, please see:

For more information about Stairways Behavioral Health, please see:

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William F. Mccarthy Of Stairways Behavioral Health Named To State Child Advocacy Board

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC) is a trusted, effective voice for the Commonwealth’s 2.7 million children.

Erie, Pa. (September 30, 2013) --- William F. McCarthy, President and CEO of Stairways Behavioral Health, has been named to the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC). Founded in 1992, PPC is a statewide advocacy organization with an agenda that spans the life of a child – from birth to adulthood – and encompasses a multi-faceted approach to ensure child well-being.

PPC has earned a reputation as a trusted, effective voice for the commonwealth’s 2.7 million children, with numerous public policy victories over more than 20 years that have expanded early learning opportunities, improved children’s access to health care, kept children safer and improved our schools.

PPC is independent, non-partisan and research driven, working effectively with all sides toward the goal of crafting effective public policies that help children thrive and succeed, regardless of circumstances.

McCarthy is the President and CEO of Stairways Behavioral Health, a provider of mental health services to Erie County residents for more than 50 years. He began his Stairways career 40 years ago and served in a variety of positions to become its leader in 1998. During his tenure as CEO, Stairways expanded services to Crawford County. As a therapist, he has over 40 years of experience counseling families, couples and individuals.

For more information about the group, visit

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