Employee Awards and Accolades

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.  


© 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