Employee Awards and Accolades

Employees honored for live-saving efforts

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Five Stairways Behavioral Health staff members from two different clinical programs were honored as May Employees of the Month for performing heroic acts on clients in life-threatening situations.

Drug and Alcohol clinic staff Andrea Zieber, Edna Stickell, Lianna Koser and Carly Miller all responded quickly to an unresponsive client in late April. Immediately after observing that the client was not breathing, staff began chest compressions and administered Narcan spray until emergency personnel arrived.

Zieber, Stickell and Koser, counselors at the D&A clinic, and Miller, a medical assistant, each played a vital role in the emergency by communicating and working together as a team as well as providing every intervention available at their disposal.

Kyle McQueeney, a blended case manager, also faced a potential fatal emergency and likewise responded in exemplary fashion.

McQueeney encountered a situation in which one of the clients he works with expressed suicidal thoughts and tried to take his life by consuming a bottle of pills. Kyle was quick to respond and contact 911, state police and crisis services. Without McQueeney’s intervention, his client would have likely died.

Stairways’ skilled employees regularly demonstrate the composure necessary in responding to emergency situations.

Each Employee of the Month was nominated by their supervisor.

SBH staff honored at17th Annual Employee Recognition Celebration

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Amy Brocious was honored as the Laura Wallerstein and Jerry Cline Distinguished Service Award winner at Stairways Behavioral Health’s annual employee recognition ceremony Wednesday morning at the Bel-Aire Conference Center.

Employees and guests, including board members and Stairways founding volunteers Walter and Joan Harf, were on hand to celebrate the Distinguished Service Award winner and honor those who reached 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years-of-service milestones in 2016.

Brocious, pictured with Ross Jervis, director of Rehabilitation Services, became the 26th recipient of the Distinguished Service Award since its inception in 1996. Jervis presented Brocious with the award, named after Stairways founder Laura Wallerstein and the late Jerry Cline, a longtime human resources director. The honor is bestowed upon the employee who best exemplifies the mission, vision and values of Stairways.

The director of Stairways Blended Case Management services, Brocious has also worked as a case manager and. Due to her experience and diverse skillset, her accomplishments have drawn acclaim from coworkers and others in the mental health community.

Colleagues cite her unyielding work ethic and compassion for clients as a driving force in her work at Stairways. Brocious was nominated by 11 co-workers. Her nomination stated that “Amy has a combination of so many qualities, but her greatest quality is that of a loving heart.”

Special congratulations also went to Chris Knoll, director of Health Information, and Norm Davis, a rehabilitation coordinator at Stairways’ Residential Treatment Facility for Adults, who each reached 30 years at Stairways in 2016.

Also among those honored with special service anniversaries of 25 years were development specialist Juanita Gangemi and Electronic Medical Records Manager Scott Morgan.

Curtis and Catledge named Employees of the Month

Thursday, March 16, 2017

John Curtis and Natasha Catledge have been recognized as the Stairways employees of the month for January and February.

Curtis helped de-escalate a potentially difficult situation involving a client while attending the front desk at Stairways Forensic Outpatient Clinic. FOP operations manager Connie Weaver-Sauers nominated Curtis for the honor.

Catledge was also credited for performing a heroic act when she assisted a client whom she suspected of overdosing.

While visiting with the client, Catledge, a rehabilitation specialist in the Psychiatric Rehabilitation, observed that they were unable to stand or speak. She immediately called Stairways’ Mobile Medication Management program for assistance and then 911 despite the client’s protests.

While being transported to the hospital, the client stopped breathing and needed resusication. Without Catledge’s foresight and action, the individual may not have survived.

Fairweather Lodge supervisor Tina Loomis nominated Catledge for the recognition.

Award highlights career successes for Sushereba

Thursday, March 16, 2017

For John Sushereba, retirement bears little resemblance to the institution as most know it.

To Sushereba, it has meant lending his expertise wherever it is needed at Stairways Behavioral Health.

During his career, Sushereba has served in a variety of positions, including several key posts since beginning at Stairways as a mobile therapist 16 years ago. In his current role, Sushereba is assisting in the operation of the Employee Assistance Program following his “retirement” from Stairways’ Erie Outpatient Clinic.

Despite his transition to this position, Sushereba is no rookie when it comes to assistance programs.

Sushereba has dedicated years working as a certified trainer at the Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit 5, which serves 17 school districts within Erie, Crawford and Warren counties. His efforts have gained him acclaim throughout the state and recently culminated with an award recognizing his outstanding work.

Sushereba was presented with the 2017 Distinguished Service Award by the Pennsylvania Association of Student Assistance Professionals during the organization’s annual conference in State College on Feb. 26. The award is presented each year to an individual “based on evidence of long-term service to student assistance in Pennsylvania.”

In addition to his contributions to IU-5 and Stairways, Sushereba also serves as co-chair of the Pennsylvania Emergency Behavioral Health Advisory Consortium and is a member of the Keystone Crisis Intervention Team. Sushereba sat down for interview with PASAP and answered questions here: 

Q: Please share your thoughts on how meaningful it has been for you to help so many students, as well as adults during difficult times.

JS: It has been quite a learning experience working with so many individuals; younger, older, couples, families, in and out of school settings.  These good people have taught me more about our human condition than I could possibly teach them.  Experiences during crises have also been profound and have benefited me professionally.  Observing remarkable resilience in so many has also been very inspiring to me and an impetus to keep on in the field.

The key component has been being part of a team of colleagues in each of those settings which then leads to much more favorable results; even when our efforts are often one-on-one. Feedback, challenges, and encouragement are so helpful.

Q: How has mental health changed in your time in the industry and what direction would you like to see it move?

JS: There have been so many changes over the years. An early DSM identified 10 cups of coffee a day as “caffeine addiction,” in which case some of our physicians and therapists would be in trouble now!

There really has been much improved insight, from simply a medical model to recognition of wellness and strength-based assessments and enhancing resiliency, and recognizing the effects of trauma on the brain, behavior and psyche. Advancements in psychotropic medication and therapeutic modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy have been quite effective.  Definitely, strides continue to be made.

The Erie area has been blessed for years with a wide range of fine agencies, hospitals, collaborations and many differing efforts to help kids, transition age youth, families and adults. I certainly hope funding continues to be available to keep up and improve that momentum in our community. Manageable caseloads for all staff also go a long ways to help effectiveness and positive morale.

Q: What accomplishments are you most proud of and what do you hope to achieve as you continue to serve the MH population?

JS: What has been gratifying has been hearing from a number of former clients out in the public, unexpectedly, years later and have them express appreciation.  It is like an extra pay check!  I recently visited a former SAP leader, and current associate with Stairways, in the hospital.  I was greeted at the elevator by a young adult in his 30’s who remembered me in SAP 15 or more years ago.  He was proud to describe his young daughter and the job he has successfully maintained for a number of years.  He thanked me for my help.  I view my role as part of the whole effort of many to make a positive difference in his life.

It has also been good to be able to give back to the field – by providing yearly trainings regarding Mental Health and Crisis Response across our Commonwealth.  

Stairways physician earns board certification

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Stairways Behavioral is pleased to announce Dr. Meghan McCarthy recently passed the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology certification exam.

Dr. McCarthy’s certification attests to her commitment toward helping individuals with mental health issues achieve recovery. Since completing her fellowship, Dr. McCarthy has served as part of Stairways’ physician team since July 2010.

Besides her duties as a psychiatrist, she has also been a mentor to doctors in residence through the Stairways teaching program with LECOM.

Congratulations, Dr. McCarthy on your certification.

Stairways employees' efforts help make for unforgettable holiday

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Making the holiday season unforgettable for clients and their families was the theme behind Stairways Behavioral Health’s philanthropic efforts this year.

Starting with the annual Thanksgiving dinner at the Zukor Club that has become a staple in kicking off the season of giving, Stairways and its employees made certain that clients wouldn’t soon forget 2016.

Nearly 100 residential clients shared dinner and company together on Nov. 24, as club members and Stairways staff served Thanksgiving dishes and fixings. In addition to donating its dining room and kitchen space, the Zukor Club also made a $500 contribution to Stairways.

Staff of Stairways also donated their time and money by holding a gift drive for more than 100 underprivileged children. Employees that took part drew a tag from a tree that included the name of a child, their age and gift ideas.

After filling their stockings with gifts, Stairways turned its sights to filling clients’ stomachs for the holidays by distributing dozens of Christmas dinners.

Blended Case Manager Team Supervisor Kevin McCaslin organizes the drive each year that sees the Second Harvest Food Bank donate meals to clients. Staff unloaded, packed and delivered the food to clients in need to make for a hearty holiday feast.

In addition to the dinner, the food and gift drive, Stairways staff is helping to collect and donate warm clothes for the Mental Health Association’s Warming Center throughout the winter. Please remember to bring your clean and gently used donations and place them in the marked collection bins at 2185 W. 8th St. or at BLOOM Collaborative, 138 E. 26th St.

Stairways is grateful for the generosity of everyone who participated their time and resources to make this holiday season memorable for clients.

Above: The Zukor Club hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for clients.

Employee of the Month: Jessica Peterman

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Jessica Peterman, a Blended Case Manager, was recognized as the Stairways Behavioral Health August Employee of the Month for performing a life-saving act.

Peterman intervened when a client began showing suicidal signs following a relapse after years of sobriety. Peterman noted the client’s struggling and continually offered help with mental health and substance abuse treatment, despite being met with refusal each time.

Over a period of three weeks, the client became despondent, began drinking in excess and declined her medications. Eventually, she began making suicidal statements, at which time Peterman contacted crisis services and called 911.

When they arrived, the client said she had ingested large amounts of prescription medication and alcohol. She was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit for a near fatal suicide attempt and given Narcan, a drug used to reverse the effects of an overdose.

Following her release from the hospital, Peterman has continued to help the client strive for sobriety by always encouraging her to seek treatment and maintain hope.

Peterman's compassion and dedication are valued standards shared by all of Stairways’ devoted staff members.

Nurses honored as employees of the month

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Stairways employees Ed Cunningham, Sue Ferraro and Carrie Lydic recently earned recognition for their excellence on the job by being named Employees of the Month.

All licensed practical nurses in the Mobile Medication Monitoring program, Cunningham, Ferraro and Lydic garnered the distinction for the month of June. Cunningham was also recognized for performing a life-saving act in May.

After receiving cryptic text messages one evening from a client he was scheduled to meet with the next day, Cunningham called him, and while talking, deduced that he was despondent and had taken a bottle of pills. Cunningham remained calm and had the individual unlock their apartment door and stay awake while he used another phone to dispatch paramedics. All the while, he stayed on the phone with the client until the ambulance arrived.

Following a stay on the Intensive Care unit, the client was transferred to another hospital floor to receive further treatment.

As a group, Cunningham, Ferraro and Lydic were honored for consistently meeting and exceeding their responsibilities. They not only assist clients with their concerns but also help educate the staff on issues clients might be facing.

The nurses have taken on additional responsibilities in addition to their nursing duties and are often willing to work late or come in on weekends. Cunningham, Ferraro and Lydic have had a great impact on the Mobile Medication Monitoring program by ensuring that the program’s productivity remains high thanks to their commitment and work ethic.

Mobile Medication Monitoring supervisor Julie Belton nominated the nurses for the accolade.

Employee Spotlight: Mary Custer

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mary Custer knows first-hand just how unexpected life’s journeys can be.

“I believe that self-discovery is the truest form of education and I have been privileged to be able to spend the last 20 years of my career helping others in this journey, as well as my own,” Custer said.

Custer’s professional journey brought her to a most unlikely destination considering where she began.

Her career started in education and even included a short stint as a stock broker at one point. For three years, she also lived in Frankfurt, Germany.

Earlier this summer, Custer officially retired as a therapist from Stairways' Erie Outpatient Clinic. Eager to spend more time with her two daughters and two grandchildren, she reflected on her time at Stairways. 

How did your job evolve during the years you occupied it?

When I was first hired in 2000 we had fewer clients and only one psychiatrist to receive and share information concerning our clients.  Dr. Thomas was very good to me and taught me so very much. He was the first one who introduced me to the Energy techniques to add to standard “talk therapy.”  Sixteen years later, the team approach is alive and well.  With the help of BCM, PRS, Peer specialists, the ACT team, BLOOM, Mobile Med Monitoring, etc., we are all a vital part of a team with one goal in mind:  helping clients to achieve and perform at their highest level.  Not that we did not do a good job in the past with our clients but we have come a long way.

How has treatment of mental health changed in your time in the industry?

I have been in the mental health field for over 20 years.  Today, there is more acceptance of mental health than when I first started.  Certainly, we have a long way to go but the descriptive negative adjectives directed to people struggling with mental health problems are not heard today. There is more awareness of mental health issues and how it not only affects the victims but also friends and families. 

What would you still like to happen in the mental health industry?

I would like to know that our politicians — local, state and federal had a better grasp on how to help people with mental illness.  Our clients lose basic needs when they try to help themselves by working.  They can lose  their insurance, child care, housing and financial assistance  while they are just getting their feet wet in the world of work..  I feel strongly that they need time to prove themselves when they are starting on a new path to independence.  I know personally that starting a new part of your life can be a tad scary.

What was the most fulfilling part of your job? 

During the last 15 plus years, I have received wonderful, heartfelt notes and expression of appreciation for the changes my clients were able to make in their personal lives.  They share that they can now live a much fuller life while managing symptoms that once controlled them.

What are you going to miss most about it?

I will miss my clients and being able to make a difference in their lives.

What are you looking forward to most about retirement?

I will have the flexibility to spend more time with my two grandchildren and my humorous, wonderful, supportive family both here and in Canada.  There is nothing better than family.

Gage House staff members recognized for life-saving act

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Phillip Livingston, Joshua Stepp and Kayla Birk were named March Employees of the Month for performing a life-saving act on an unresponsive client.

On a March evening, a client at Gage House had a seizure, lost consciousness and stopped breathing when Stepp, Birk and Livingston (pictured below, left to right) intervened to assist the individual.

Birk alerted police of an emergency by pressing the panic buttons and helped to keep other clients calm while Stepp called 911. Livingston assessed the client and provided her with a clear airway that restored breathing. The client was then transported by ambulance to the hospital.

Following the event, Livingston informed other Gage residents of the occurrence. Despite the emotional difficulty of the incident, Livingston Birk and Stepp’s focus was always on the clients at Gage House.

Thanks to quick thinking and emergency preparedness, the client survived their attack and was stabilized.

Gage House is a structured program that provides rehabilitation and habilitation services to individuals who are in need of treatment to address co-occuring substance abuse and mental health issues.

Livingston is a clinical care specialist at Gage House. Stepp and Birk are part-time aides at the residential facility.

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