Mental Health Professionals blog

Pennsylvania Celebrates Fairweather Lodge Day

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Note: This story is the first in a two-part series about the Fairweather Lodge program, written by Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (PRS) interns Brooke Bateman and Laurel Geer from Gannon University's Occupational Therapy program.

To honor the life and contributions of Dr. George William Fairweather, founder of the Fairweather Lodge (FWL) Program, the Pennsylvania General Assembly of the Senate and House of Representatives recently adopted resolutions to designate Sept. 25, 2015, as Fairweather Lodge Day.

This day recognizes Dr. Fairweather's efforts in developing a program that allows individuals with mental illness to take an active role in their recovery through community living, and also raises awareness for and acknowledges the many people who work together to make the FWL program a reality.

After devoting his life to integrating individuals with mental illness into the community, Dr. Fairweather died in January at the age of 93. To commemorate the man and his vision, several Stairways Behavioral Health Fairweather Lodge members and employees participated in the 31st Annual Fairweather Lodge Conference from Sept. 23-25 in Pittsburgh. 

About the Fairweather Lodge Program

The Fairweather Lodge Program was developed in 1963 to encourage homeless individuals who have a mental illness to be active in their recovery through a peer-supported, community-based, residential and work environment. The program was designed as a community living lodge to emphasize interdependence. People in the program live together, work together, and learn the skills necessary to function in a peer-supported environment.

In the FWL model, members have a say in the program, can live autonomously, have opportunities for advancement and fulfill expected social roles.  Together, these are factors that promote one of the aims of the FWL Program: to combat stigma associated with mental illness. Staff provide training, help the peer group to function well, offer individual and group support, and collaborates on individual goals. At Stairways, these functions are carried out by FWL management and PRS staff.

Eight concepts provide a foundation for the program and fidelity to the FWL model:

  • Provide a safe environment.
  • Promote good health and symptom management.
  • Provide long-term services for those who need it.
  • Promote productive work.
  • Create meaningful social roles.
  • Provide community culture resembling a healthy family.
  • Work to promote independence/interdependence.
  • Create and secure multiple resources.

Fairweather Lodge at Stairways

Tina Loomis is a PRS Clinical Supervisor and veteran manager of FWL. Kim Stucke, Stairways Chief Development Officer, helped get the program started in Erie and across the Commonwealth, and continues to provide administrative and funding support.

Stairways’ FWL Program started in 1999 with one lodge. “Five members were interviewed and then started their own janitorial business with a contract through Stairways,” Loomis said. At one point, the program had 57 members, and by 2005 it had 23 work contracts. Presently, there are seven lodges with a total of 41 members, including a 12-member Training Lodge, where members are provided with skill-building services through PRS as well as other support services.

After graduating from the Training Lodge, members move to permanent lodges or to other community housing. Permanent lodge members may or may not receive services, but are still FWL members and are supported by FWL/PRS staff  Tammy Young, Joe Crotty, and Amanda Ferguson. The FWL Program currently has one work contract through Opportunities Unlimited of Erie and many FWL members work in competitive employment in the Erie community.

For Loomis, the most important outcome of the program is that “individuals move from the (Training) lodge to independent living in the community and sustain their lives how they see fit. (The FWL program) helps them to get back a sense of themselves and realize they have power; it helps the powerless feel powerful again.”

As the FWL Manager/Coordinator, Tammy Young provides programmatic and direct recovery-oriented services.  She manages daily operations, interviews people who are interested in FWL, coordinates team meetings, communicates with community partners, provides support for social interaction and conflict resolution, and works with members individually to set and reach their goals.

“The lodge gives them a secure place to be, a sense of belonging so they can have all their basic needs met,” Young said. “They are able to grow personally, find meaningful activity, find out who they are, and learn skills that they need to live independently. For those who are ready for the program, the success rate is huge. We look at the person as a whole and give them the opportunities and tools to be what they need to be independent.”

Joe Crotty oversees the vocational side of the FWL Program and works with Young and the SBH property management team to support day-to-day Lodge programming for all seven lodges. He has worked with FWL Program intermittently for 10 years. For Crotty, the most important outcome of the program is its “individual personal growth.”

According to Joe, “The most important thing the lodge does for members," Crotty said, "is that it provides an environment and support, simultaneously, for individuals at imminent risk to prevent homelessness from occurring.

"It attempts to address skill-building and supports connection, as natural supports for the individual provide stability where there was not before.”

Above, right: Kim Stucke, Stairways Chief Development Officer and co-chair of the Coalition for Community Living, left, stands with the late Dr. George William "Bill" Fairweather, founder of the Fairweather model, during his visit to Stairways' lodge.

Next month: Hear from local, individual FWL members, in their own words

Gateway Center serves mental health program to state parole violators

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Every day we use so many abbreviations at the Forensic Outpatient clinic that people will often stop us and ask us what we are talking about.  I think it becomes part of the daily routine wherever we are.  Lately, we have heard, “What is the PVC?  What is a BCC?” 

To understand what the Parole Violator’s Center, or PVC is, first, understand the sensitive nature of the clients that the Forensic Clinic serves.  We serve the population of people that are moving in and out of the criminal justice system, the population that has mental health issues.  These clients are in a state of pre-trial (not been sentenced yet), on probation or parole (out on the streets and living among society) and those living in restricted settings (halfway house and PVC).  A halfway house means that someone is halfway out of prison and is making their way into the community and working to find a place to live.  Halfway back means that the person was struggling on the street and a home setting was not healthy but prison was not an answer so putting them in a monitored environment was necessary.  This person is allowed to still come to appointments and be in the community but on a monitored and restricted basis.

Today, I want to discuss the milestone of being able to provide mental health services to the men at the Gateway facility.

A PVC is where a person on State Parole will be diverted to rather than going back to State Prison.  They have violated their conditions of parole to the point that it is not safe for them to be out on the street, but the parole agent does not want to put them back into at State Prison yet.   Historically, men and women in these settings would have access to a medical doctor but their mental health services would stop at the door.  The medical doctors did their best to assist with providing mental health medications when absolutely needed but they did not have the knowledge of the mental health system or medications that a psychiatrist or certified registered nurse practitioner or other mental health staff would have.  People housed in these situations would have to wait until released to the community or worse, sent back to prison to see mental health professionals.

Through a new contract that the Forensic Outpatient Clinic (FOP) received from the BCC or Bureau of Community Corrections, we have been able to provide not only psychiatric care to the men housed at the PVC but now individual and group therapy.  This has allowed FOP to continue services with current clients and identify men needing services that were not in services in the past.  With having no interruption, individuals can be stabilized and continue at the clinic seamlessly. 

Amy Konkel is the FOP therapist that currently provides services at Gateway and has been trained in MRT therapy.  MRT or Moral Reconation Therapy is a cognitive behavioral program for criminal justice offenders.  It combines education, group and individual counseling and structured exercises designed to foster moral development in treatment resistant clients.  MRT seeks to move an individual from a more pleasure vs pain sense of thinking and reasoning to one of concern for social rules and others becomes important.  Amy runs this group at the center and has started running the group at FOP so that men coming out of the PVC can continue with this treatment as well.  Currently, Amy is the only person trained in Erie County to provide MRT services.

Currently, Gateway and our forensic outpatient team have been working together and have seen an improvement with the men staying at the center since therapy and psychiatric services have been started.  Clients have also reported feeling added support.

- Stairways Forensic Clinic Staff

Group Therapy

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Here at Stairways’ Forensic Out-Patient clinic, all clients are required to complete at least one 8-12 week group, preferable shortly after the completion of the Intake process. Just like the camaraderie and strength in numbers found in AA meetings, many clients report  the feedback and support they receive from their peers in group plays a vital part in their individual journeys of recovery.

I run a weekly Men’s Issues Group, where the guys have an opportunity to discuss the ups and downs of their weeks, and how they navigate conflict, stress, decision-making and especially inter-personal relationships. We also look differences between men and women, such as innate brain differences which affect things like multi-tasking and listening skills. Finally, I gotta say that I continue to be impressed by the empathy, respect and support that our clients impart to each other on a daily basis.

Robert T. Ross, MSW LSW

Therapist, FOP clinic

Thinking for a change

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

“Thinking for a Change” is a program originally developed by the Department of Corrections Institute for state inmates. Members in this group learn various social skills, like identifying the emotions of others, being an active listener and how to respond to anger and how to apologize.

Members learn about the Conflict Cycle and use steps for problem solving using some Cognitive Behavioral techniques helping them to identify risky thoughts feelings and behaviors.  Members of this group complete a weekly "Thinking Reports" that helps them to assess a situation that has occurred during their week. The report helps the members recognize feelings during the situation, analyze the problem of the situation, and set goals to solve situation. 

Group members assert that this group helps them solve their problems in a pro-social manner. As one group member summed up, “Change your thinking, change your life".

Sarah Howard

Therapist, Forensic Clinic

Holistic Wellness

Monday, October 13, 2014

There are always many new things happening in the field of mental health. One of the most recent things that the Forensic Clinic is working on is having a holistic approach to approaching treatment needs. Recently in our General Mental Health Recovery and Wellness Group we have been discussing the importance of linking many systems together for a holistic approach to treatment.

These systems include many powerful supports for our clients; Blended Case Management services, Mobile Psychiatric Rehabilitation services, Homeless Case Managers, Probation/ Parole, Dual Diagnosis, Independent Living services, and many more. The idea that our clients need and receive a support team is nothing new to our field. The challenge has been linking each client to their own system to support them based on their own personal needs and desires.

Here at the FOPC, we will continue to link clients to the best possible systems to have wellness in their lives today.

Kari Thompson, LPC, CAADC

Impact Therapy

Monday, September 08, 2014

Have you ever felt motivated to change something about your life?  Last week, I was motivated to start lifting weights.  I felt great until the next morning when pain and stiffness woke me up.  I asked myself, “Do I really want to exercise?”  It hurts and it’s going to take work. 

Do you know how muscles grow?  They have to be broken down first.  Weightlifting causes muscle fibers to tear which ushers in a rebuilding process.  The muscle fibers repair themselves, building a stronger, bigger muscle.  But growth can’t happen unless the muscle is ‘changed’ through resistance.  The catch: Change is hard and people don’t change easily. 

I recently attended a DDAP training presented by Heidi O’Toole who introduced Impact Therapy.  Impact Therapy was developed by Ed Jacobs and is based on the premise that “people don’t change easily.”  The therapy recognizes that clients will struggle to change.  It offers counselors multi-sensory, concrete therapy strategies to help clients experientially envision change.  The Dual Clinic staff is committed to helping clients make changes to achieve their goals.  We are excited to make a stronger therapeutic ‘impact’ by welcoming the use of new skills and strategies.    

Krista Godlewski, BA

Stairways Behavioral Health Dual Clinic



Tina was pondering today...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I’m sure everyone has asked these questions of themselves at one time or another - Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing?  Is this my place in life? Am I making a difference?

The answers to these questions come often in the most mysterious and unexpected ways. 

Yesterday I received a text from a number that I did not recognize and when I went to open it there was only an attachment.  The attachment opened up to a picture of a past client of mine standing on a hill covered in flowers, in front of a Montana highway sign, holding a hand- made sign that read:  I’ll never forget the hug and I am doing fine."

I knew at that moment that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.   

Tina Loomis

Supervisor, Fairweather Lodge

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