Employee Awards and Accolades

Stairways opens new Outpatient West satellite

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Stairways Behavioral Health’s Erie Outpatient Clinic has opened a new satellite site located inside the main administration building, 2185 W. 8th St.

The new site houses the same functions as the Clinic located at 2910 State Street, including medication management, nursing services as well as group, individual, family and couples therapy. The Outpatient West space will also boast increased handicap accessibility as well as greater convenience for residents of Erie’s west side.

Becky Clark, Stairways’ director of treatment services, said the new westside clinic will offer clients a variety of options for their treatment setting.

“The EOP West Satellite, in addition to being more convenient for individuals who may reside on the west side of Erie, will also provide a smaller, quieter and less busy setting for individuals who may find our traditional outpatient locations overly stimulating,” Clark said. “For folks with intense anxiety, this can make a world of difference. Overall, this will be an opportunity for us to allow individuals more choices in their environments of care.”

Outpatient West will occupy the same space that originally housed Community Integration Inc., a community outpatient mental health provider in the 1990s that helped integrate individuals transitioning from Warren State Hospital into the community during the Erie/Warren project. Community Integration Inc. would later become Safe Harbor Behavioral Health.

Dr. Meghan McCarthy will serve as the on-site physician and will be joined by therapists Melissa Schmidt, Donnelle Super, John Sushereba and Caty Fischer.

Employee Spotlight: Sara Harris

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When Sara Harris began working at what was then Center City Arts in June 2013, she was the first person to assume the newly created position of Creative Wellness Coordinator.

As the effervescent figure that greets visitors entering BLOOM Collaborative, it’s a wonder the job wasn’t created solely for her.

Along with BLOOM director Lee Steadman, Sara oversees the day-to-day operation of BLOOM, a program dedicated to fostering holistic health and well-being through art, nutrition, gardening, yoga and meditation.

For each guest entering the campus on East 26th and Holland streets, Sara's as quick to offer a smile as she is a cup of coffee.

A self-described jack-of-all-trades, Sara has her hand in a number of things at any one time, from teaching yoga to maintaining class schedules to making sure each new guest is met with warmth and hospitality. In addition to playing host, Sara constantly has her finger on the pulse of BLOOM, ensuring things run smoothly for the hundreds of individuals visiting the campus each day.

Although she does not consider herself a typical artist, Sara’s laid-back personality helps stimulate the creative atmosphere that is synonymous with BLOOM.

Q: For many people who visit BLOOM, you’re the smiling face that greets them. What is it about this job that suits your personality?

A: I don’t think of myself as someone who is going out of my way to be the smiling face you see. I look at it more just as me being myself and I think that’s why people relate to me so well, because I’m just being my normal friendly self and people seem to really respond to that.

I do enjoy seeing the impact that my interactions have with people, especially people that have been coming in over a period of time and you can see when they come in the door how, visually, the space impacts them and the feeling of the environment. But then when that’s paired with not only me but other friendly and positive personalities in this building and within BLOOM itself, it’s easy to see the differences it makes in somebody’s day. You find that people are pretty verbal about sharing that. Because usually when somebody first comes in here, it’s the hardest part to have the confidence, but when they do, they’re met with a friendly face and a beautiful space, they say ‘why did I wait so long?’

Q: What is a typical day?

A: Every day is different. We might have the same things on the schedule but you never can tell what’s going to happen depending on how the folks that are coming in the door—how they feel, what they want to talk to you about. Some days everyone wants to talk about what they’ve been doing and by the end of the day it feels like you’ve accomplished nothing on your list, but really it’s not about what’s on that list. Really, it’s you took five minutes to talk to somebody and it could’ve been the highlight of their day.

I’m just being friendly and nice to people and I think for a lot of people that come here, they don’t have that interaction on a regular basis and that’s what this place is all about: giving people an opportunity to be in a friendly and open place and be not only with their peers but the people who work here.

Q: Since you started working here in June 2013 at then-Center City Arts, what are the biggest differences you have seen?

A: When I started, the schedule was a lot smaller and there was a lot fewer people, like on a typical open studio day there were maybe 25 people, now we’re at 50-plus. So it was really easy to see how just having somebody to interact and answer questions really helped propel this program to be even busier. I mean, it’s more than doubled in my first year and a half

Attendance and offerings have grown and we have a great group of teachers and I think folks just recognize the need to add new art programs and diversify it by adding yoga and adding different experiences. Like introducing folks into new experiences that they wouldn't otherwise have an opportunity to participate in and just simple things like the idea of fruit, gratitude, positive, having a beautiful space to be around.

I think in having a friendly face, being warm and letting me people know they are welcome can, I think that kind of had a big effect on putting people at ease and helping them have fun, so if they feel welcome, why wouldn't they come back?

Q: What is your favorite part of the job?

A: I like that every day is different. I don’t like being stuck in a space or not moving around. I like being able to come to a beautiful space, I’m able to move around, things are different every day, that you know that you’re positively impacting the world and community around me. I think I’m very lucky to be able to work in this space and with the people, whether it’s staff or clients.

And I like that I can ride my scooter here in the summer (laughs).

Q: When people ask you what’s done at BLOOM, what do you tell them?

A: My standard answer is that we’re a creative wellness campus, so we offer opportunities to Stairways clients as well as the community at large to get involved with art and yoga to help make their day a little better.

Something that people always then say to me is ‘I’m not an artist—I can’t draw.’ That’s what they immediately think of—‘I draw stick figures’. And I tell them, ‘Hey art isn’t just what you do on a canvas. You can do art in all other areas of your life, whether it be how you dress or how you like to cook, there’s art in everyday living.’ For me that’s what I really like about this job is letting people know, ‘Hey, you really are an artist whether you realize it or not.' There’s something artistic and creative in everybody.

(Photos by Mark Fainstein)

Home's space remade into "Sensory Room"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Residents at Stairways Behavioral Health’s Personal Care Home were greeted to perceptible changes upon entering the West 8th Street building’s recreation room one day in late September.

And that was entirely the objective when the space received a comprehensive makeover in the creation of the “Sensory Room,” an area where clients can use sensory input to attain a state of self-regulation.

The room seeks to achieve this state by using objects that elicit responses from all senses in hopes of appropriately calming or stimulating depending on the situation.

The idea of the sensory room at PCH was conceived and implemented by Jessica Hull and Lydia Altimus, two occupational therapy students at Gannon University interning at Stairways within the Psychiatric Rehabilitation program.

“We had read some research articles about the effectiveness of sensory rooms on inpatient units in self-regulation,” Altimus said. “The theory behind the Sensory Room is that they have the ability to regulate relaxation and sensory modulation.”

Hull and Altimus, along with Christine Linkie, director of Psych Rehab services, and Heather Filson, PCH director, took the idea to a receptive group of clients who voiced their support for the sensory room.

Filson said the room was discussed among clients in PCH’s Residents’ Council and was met with enthusiasm.

“Several of the clients were very excited,” Filson said. “I really think it will be beneficial for those who are residents. We have 38 people living (here) and each one has their own unique needs for sensory modulation and we hope the room will meet them for everyone.”

Thanks to Stairways’ Client Wellness Fund, Hull and Altimus were able to personally stock the room with items that encourage self-regulation and paint its walls in a soothing shade of green that changes along with the natural light throughout the day.

A weighted blanket creates a natural calming effect for its wearers. Tactile objects, such as soft upholstery covers and Play-Doh promote varying levels of stimulation. A variety of hard and soft candies are available for oral stimulation, which helps bring about relaxation, while scented oils and other aromatic substances, including fresh coffee each morning, affect the olfactory receptors in different ways.

In addition to raising awareness about their sensory input, the sensory room also promotes greater interaction among residents. Hull and Altimus introduced activities likely to spur collaborative participation such as jewelry-making and group sewing and rearranged the furniture in a way more conducive to increased socialization.

“We knew that if we rearranged the TV, and depending on how the furniture was arranged, people would be more likely to participate in other activities,” Hull said.

The concept of what we take in through our senses and how we respond to the input they provide us is one that could provide greater insight into how we are affected by what we perceive in everyday life.

“I think what’s becoming more common is our understanding of how our senses impact mental health,” Linkie said.

Something the sensory room is bringing to the forefront.

Stairways, BLOOM rock The Color Run

Monday, September 08, 2014


          From left, Lee Steadman, Director, BLOOM Collaborative, Dr. Meghan McCarthy, physician, and Jennifer Valerio, Stairways   fiscal manager, represented BLOOM by participating in Erie's first Color Run Aug. 9. 

Thousands of smiling runners caught yellow fever—as well as red, purple, pink and blue—at the Color Run in downtown Erie in early August, and BLOOM Collaborative, a program of Stairways Behavioral Health, was in the middle of all the shenanigans.

The Color Run, a nationally recognized paint race billed as the “happiest 5k on the planet” in which runners are showered with colored powder, attracted nearly 11,000 participants for its first race in Erie on Aug. 9. As one of five main sponsors, BLOOM operated the yellow “color zone,” where volunteers doused passing participants head to toe in yellow cornstarch while dusting the corner of West 10th and Cherry streets in a powdery coat in the process.

Upon the race’s conclusion at Perry Square, the color-coated runners continued the festivities by dancing to music and absorbing even more color sprayed out over the crowd. BLOOM helped add to the excitement by handing out more than 1,000 beach balls at its tent in Perry Square.

Volunteers for the event included employees and friends from BLOOM and Stairways, while three employees and a client also represented BLOOM as participants in the race.


Left: Volunteer color throwers were a vital part of the run's success.     Right: BLOOM Collaborative's tent located in Perry Square

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