Stairways in the News

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.

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

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

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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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association (RCPA) now among the nation’s largest health, human services trade groups


Erie, Pa. (July 9, 2013) --- William F. McCarthy, President and CEO of Stairways Behavioral Health, has been named to serve on the board of directors of the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association (RCPA), a new association that will be among the largest state health and human services trade groups in the nation.


“This really is a landmark moment for the provider community,” said RCPA President and CEO Richard Edley, Ph.D. “We’re really fortunate to have someone with Bill McCarthy’s skills and experience to help guide us as we head into this new era of service and advocacy.”


RCPA was created by a merger between the Pennsylvania Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (PARF) and the Pennsylvania Community Providers Association (PCPA). Members of the two organizations met separately and voted unanimously to approve the merger, which takes effect July 1. The two associations, which share a long history of cooperation and partnerships, began exploring the merger in 2009.


The board will meet later this month to set its schedule and agenda for the coming year.


As a single entity, RCPA will continue the associations’ joint missions to enhance advocacy, education, project support, public information and policy development for the benefit of individuals with mental health and intellectual disabilities, addictive diseases and rehabilitation needs, and expand networking and training for association members.


Founded in 1972, PCPA is a statewide association that promotes a community-based, responsive and viable system of agencies providing quality services for individuals receiving mental health, intellectual disability, addictive disease and other related human services. PCPA represents more than 225 community-based agencies that provide mental health, intellectual and developmental disability, and substance use disorder services for children and adults. Members operate in all 67 counties and serve more than 1 million Pennsylvanians per year.


Since 1969, PARF has been actively working to improve the availability, accessibility and quality of rehabilitation services for individuals with disabilities. With more than 90 members in Pennsylvania, PARF’s facilities serve individuals with physical, mental, social and/or emotional disabilities. PARF members offer services and programs that include medical, psychological, social, residential, educational, vocational and employment rehabilitation.


For more information about the groups, visit



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