Brain Science and Updates From the Field

Conference highlights important topics

Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Earlier this month, the expertise of an impressive collection of distinguished mental health professionals was on display for the benefit of their peers.

On June 22, Erie hosted the fourth annual Challenges & Innovations in Rural Psychiatry Conference at the Bayfront Convention Center. The conference is a way for professionals, students, consumers and family members to discuss important topics relating to mental health.

The keynote on the topic of the opioid epidemic was given by Dr. Donald S. Burke, Dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate school of Public Health. Burke was also part a roundtable panel discussion on the topic of the opioid epidemic that included County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper and drug and alcohol professionals from Stairways Behavioral Health.

In addition to the opioid epidemic, additional issues were discussed during the conference, including a case study examining the importance of art in recovery given by BLOOM Collaborative Director Lee Steadman, right, and Rochelle Youkers, director of Assertive Community Treatment at Stairways; best practices in Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT); and a look at how peers have been effective in helping treat substance use.

Speakers who presented at the conference possessed diverse experience from clinical, academic and government backgrounds.

Stairways medical director Dr. Penny Chapman has spearheaded the annual event that made its debut in Erie. Dr. Chapman is also the Director of Rural Psychiatry Fellowship for the University of Pittsburgh’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, the main sponsor of the conference.

The conference was free of charge for individuals who use services and their families, as well as medical residents and students.

Peer Specialist Program presents, makes impression at SCI Albion

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

On July 24, 2015, SCI Albion employees hosted a Community Day for the inmates housed in the Residential Treatment Unit (RTU) and  Stairways Behavioral Health’s Certified Peer Specialist program was selected as the only provider  program to present at this event.

Marilyn Goss and Jason Young represented Stairways by giving a presentation to an audience of about 200 inmates.

Goss offered inmates information on the peer specialist program and other services the organization offers.

“It’s important to see peers as people who can assist others who might be facing the same issues,” Goss said.

Young, a certified peer specialist, delivered an impassioned talk in which he addressed the common issues  people with mental illness face despite personally never having had any legal problems himself .

“Even though I have no direct experience with the criminal justice system, it appeared from the feedback I received after the speech overall and from individual audience members that I had made a real connection,” he said.  “I explained to them that hope is real; this was my message to them.”

Every inmate that participated in Community Day signed a Community Pledge, an agreement written by inmates that has 11 actions and values they swore to honor.

Community Day, was developed to demonstrate a healthy sense of respect for social situations and to establish a sense of belonging among the inmates, and coincides with a renewed focus on the value of peer specialists within the state.

Starting last year, SCI Albion has trained inmates as Peer Support Specialists. On June 19, 18 inmates graduated from the program, bringing the total number of CPSS at the prison to 33. Following release from prison, these inmates are eligible for employment based on their training and experience.

Following Stairways’ presentation at Albion, Goss received a positive response from the inmates in attendance.

In a letter voicing his appreciation, one inmate wrote, “Please don’t forget the incarcerated in prison. We are human beings too with heart and feelings.”

Navigating College Emotions

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Prevalence of College Student Mental Health Concerns and Where to Find Help.

College years are filled with a constant ebb and flow of emotions, from hopefulness and exhilaration to frustration and chaos. As finals week approaches, these emotions become even more heightened. Thankfully, professional help stands at the ready. Awareness and recognition is the key for family, roommates and friends to encourage students to seek help.


The Research


Since 1920, the American College Health Association (ACHA) has linked the nation’s college health professionals, serving to advance the health and wellness of college students through advocacy, education and research.

The most recent (Spring 2014) ACHA-National College Health Assessment (NCHA)* surveyed 79,266 students from 140 college, universities and post-secondary institutions across the nation, revealing the following statistics:

The Top Five Health-Related Factors Which Affected Students’ Academic Performance, e.g. lowered grade on exam or project; course dropped or incomplete; significant disruption in thesis or practicum work:

Percentage of students reporting disruptive health factor:

30.3%   Stress
21.8%   Anxiety
21.0%   Sleep difficulties
15.1%   Cold/flu/sore throat
13.5%   Depression

While a full 91.2% of surveyed students described their over-all health as good, very good, or excellent, they also reported the following felt experiences in the previous year:

86.4%   Felt overwhelmed by all you had to do
82.1%   Felt exhausted (not from physical activity)
62.0%   Felt very sad
59.2%   Felt very lonely
54.0%   Felt overwhelming anxiety
46.4%   Felt things were hopeless
37.4%   Felt overwhelming anger
32.6%   Felt so depressed it was difficult to function

Where to Find Help


For students attending 4-year colleges and universities here in Northwestern Pennsylvania, help is as close as a phone call or a short walk across campus. Families, friends and roommates can use the following list to encourage students to the seek professional help available on campus:

Crawford County Crisis Hotline 814-724-2732
Erie County Crisis Services 814-456-2014
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK

Allegheny College Counseling Center
Phone number: 814-332-4368
Location: Reis Hall, 3rd Floor, room 304
http://sites.allegheny.edu/counseling/

Edinboro University Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
Phone number: 814-732-2252
Location: Ghering Health and Wellness Center, McNerney Hall, 1st Floor
http://www.edinboro.edu/directory/offices-services/caps/

Gannon University Counseling Services
Phone number: 814-871-7622
Location: below Harborview House Apartments, 210 W. Sixth St.
http://www.gannon.edu/About-Gannon/Services-for-Students/Counseling-Services/

Mercyhurst College Counseling Center
Erie Campus - Phone number: 814-824-3650
Location: Cohen Health Center, 4118 Briggs Avenue
North East Campus - Phone number 814-725-6136
Location: Miller Hall 7B
http://www.mercyhurst.edu/campus-life/counseling-center

PSU Behrend Personal Counseling Office
Phone number: 814-898-6504
Location: Reed Union Building, First Floor, Room 1
https://psbehrend.psu.edu/student-life/student-services/personal-counseling


* See the full data for the ACHA-National College Health Assessment survey here: http://www.achancha.org/

© 2014 Stairways Behavioral Health. All rights reserved. 2185 West 8th Street · Erie, Pa 16505 · Phone: 814-453-5806 · Fax: 814-453-4757 · Toll-free: 1-888-453-5806 · Contact Us · Sitemap