Employee Awards and Accolades

The Next Step

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

After nearly a month of leading Stairways Behavioral Health, Valerie Vicari finds herself in a state of ease and comfort.

The acclimation process having been expedited due to her familiarity and working experience with Stairways, Vicari has hit the ground running since assuming her position as executive director.

"It just feels right," she says enthusiastically.

As director, Vicari will oversee the operation of Stairways' clinical programs as well as work with the President/CEO of Beacon Light Behavioral Health, Stairways' recent affiliate, and Stairways' Board of Directors to ensure the continued implementation of the organization's vision.

Prior to coming to Stairways, Vicari served for 4 1/2 years as the Director of the Division of Western Operations of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) in Pittsburgh. There, she coordinated funding between federal, state and local governments as well as implemented evidence-based programs and recovery initiatives. She previously held a number of positions within the state, including serving as acting CEO of Warren State Hospital from December 2009 to June 2010.

Vicari graduated from Clarion University with a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and earned a master's degree in Professional Leadership for Management with a concentration in nonprofit from Carlow College.

Q: What about the executive director position attracted your interest to make the change from an OMHSAS career? 

A: I have been fortunate to have had so many wonderful career opportunities working in behavioral health.  My career path has always been, at some point, to have a leadership role with a behavioral health non-profit organization. When the opportunity at Stairways availed itself, I was quite interested to pursue the leadership position. Stairways has been a leader in behavioral health within the Commonwealth. The opportunity to lead such a great organization with a strong foundation also led to my pursuit of the leadership role. 

Q: What leadership philosophy do you bring with you?

A: I believe in being eclectic in leadership. I believe in the application of transformational leadership which recognizes the strengths of an organization and builds on shared values and a common mission. I also believe a good leader steps backs and allows others to lead as well. There are many leaders within the agency and I look forward to building on those strengths to promote our common mission.  

Q: How is your experience in government a benefit in your position leading Stairways? 

A: I have had the opportunity to develop statewide behavioral health programs, regulatory development and application as well as implementation of both federal and state changes related to healthcare.  I believe the aforementioned coupled with the oversight of the behavioral health HealthChoices Program and the mental health licensure oversight in the western area of Pennsylvania provides a strong and broad basis to lead Stairways in the ever evolving healthcare arena.

Q: What has been your impressions of the programs, staff and environment of Stairways?

A: Stairways is a strong behavioral health provider with a rich community base.  The programs are rooted in recovery principles and the staff supports the wellness of individuals living in the community.  There are many facets to the organization supporting not only recovery focused services but also drug and alcohol treatment, housing, forensics, personal care, as well as evidenced based practices.  

Q: You come to Stairways at a unique time as it has recently formed an affiliation with Beacon Light. How do you see your role of executive director fitting in to this new structure?

A: This is a unique and exciting time for both organizations.  The role of Executive Director is a leadership role that will not only guide Stairways but also be part of the leadership as the affiliation continues to evolve. 

Q: Are there any goals or initiatives that you’d like Stairways to explore and achieve?

A: Stairways has a strategic plan in place that is forward thinking and has goals related to an evolving healthcare system.  In line with the strategic plan, I am hopeful to add to our psychiatric services through the implementation of telepsychiatry.   We will also be focusing on evidence based services as well as strengthening our peer services.  This focus will be around certified peer specialists as well as certified recovery specialists.     

Q: What do you see as Stairways’ role, as the healthcare industry, particularly that of mental health, continues to evolve and change?

A: Stairways will continue to be a behavioral health leader.  We have opportunity to evolve and explore many possibilities including but not limited to the development of behavioral health/physical health services to focus on the whole person, programmatic opportunities as the Commonwealth’s efforts continue to expand healthcare to meet the Federal Affordable Health Care requirements as well advanced clinical models including evidence based practices.

(Photos by Mark Fainstein)

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