We are a consumer lead and consumer driven organization with a dynamic, active membership of several thousand. Many of our members participate in our programs on a daily basis, others only occassionally.
The MHA provides a consumer driven environment which supports and promotes recovery for all people with mental health needs including veterans, persons with criminal justice histories and regional state hospital residents.
All people with mental health needs lead meaningful and satisfying lives through choice, responsibility, and dignity with respect.
The MHA values empowering people with mental health needs in their recovery.
The MHA Board of Directors recognizes MHA staff members who perform exceptional deeds which prove to be instrumental in the lives of mental health consumers. These deeds deserve to be celebrated. The 'Above and Beyond' award has recently been awarded to four MHA staff members in gratitude for these special efforts.
Many local bus routes stop within one block of the Mental Health Association. Additionally, metered parking may be available at 48 W 11th St at the cost of one quarter or one token for each 20 minutes.
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Mental Health Advance Directive is available online.
MHA is an equal opportunity employer and provider. We offer employment opportunities and provide services without consideration of national origin, age or sex.
This notice describes our privacy practices that are in effect this this time. You may obtain a copy of our Notice of Privacy Practices from Patricia Stucke, Operaions Manager
Employment Opportunities at Mental Health Association of NW PA. MHA is an equal opportunity employer and prohibits hiring discrimination on the basis of race, color, religious creed, disability, ancestry, national origin, age or sex. Employment opportunities shall be provided for applicants with disabilities and reasonable accommodations shall be made to meet the physical or mental limitations of qualified applicants or employees.
Our latest Annual Report is avaialble now.
A lot of people ask us about the flower that appears as part of our MHA logo and letterhead. It's an Iris. Why is it there? Since the mid 1980s a number of mental health/mental illness organizations have adopted the iris as a part of their visual identities. I had started to write an account of the meaning of the iris but found that I couldn't improve on the history given by the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario. So, go to their website at www.shizophrenia.on.ca and click on "Story of the Iris" under the About SSO tab. I think you will understand how it has come to hold such meaning for those of us committed to overcoming the personal and social impact of mental illness.
The vision for what was to become the Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA began to form in March 1992. This is when the Consumer Empowerment Project began at MECA in with a vision of housing mental health consumer-run, consumer-directed projects. The idea was to form a group of consumers interested in participation on social service agency boards, in essence, to have meaningful consumer involvement in organizations that were directing the flow of services being provided.
A group of consumers met in the basement of the Arts and Culture Center at Stairways Behavioral Health. They talked of a need for more structure and helped to form a consumer support group and a consumer drop-in center in Erie, PA. John Farmer, an activist consumer from Philadelphia, was invited for consultation and offered support to this determined group. Meetings followed at the MECA Office in the Baldwin Building (now Renaissance Center). Participants learned how to structure a group, had training in group facilitation and visited drop in centers in PA. Another individual wanted to start a local chapter of the Depression/Manic Depression Association (now Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance). He needed a place to hold the meetings. At the time DMDA met two different days at two different times. Mr. Bill Grove, then Supervisor of Inpatient Therapy at Saint Vincent Hospital found space for DMDA to hold information sharing and support to consumers on the inpatient psychiatric unit. Confidentiality was upheld.
In 1993 the Erie/Warren Project to bring Erie County residents receiving treatment at Warren State Hospital back to the community was underway. "Together We Stand" was a group of consumers who met at Stairways to bring a consumer voice and perspective to this downsizing of the State Hospital. They requested and received funding from Erie County Office of MH/MR to start a Consumer Center as a peer support project for the returning consumers. The Center operated in the basement of Mid-City Towers in downtown Erie during the 1992-1993 fiscal year. Referred to then as Consumer Projects, the center started out housing a drop-in center, named “Our Place” by its members, and the Consumer Satisfaction Team (CST) in 1994. Visits were made to consult with and receive training from Loretta Ferry, Consumer Satisfaction Team, in Philadelphia, PA.
Ms. Sue Bennett, a founding member of the group, worked with Mr. John Farmer from Southeast PA to turn the vision of a consumer driven/run organization into reality for Erie, PA. Providers, Erie County MH officials, family members and consumers came together in support of the idea. In 1994 the Consumer Center and the Consumer Satisfaction Team were incorporated as a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization becoming the Erie County Coalition of Mental Health Consumers (ECCMHC) with a Board of Directors and Susan L. Bennett as Executive Director. The ECCMHC operated out of various locations over the next couple of years including Old Main (part of Stairways) on West 21st and Sassafras Streets.
The tireless search continued for a permanent location for consumers to have support groups and a Consumer Center. In August 1997, again with the assistance and support of the Erie County MH/MR Office, the ECCMHC bought a building at 1101 Peach Street, Erie, PA. This facility remains the home of the organization to this day.
In 2000 the ECCMHC began an eight year affiliation with the National Mental Health Association and was renamed the Mental Health Association of Northwestern PA.
For the next five years, MHA continued to grow its Consumer Center and Consumer Satisfaction Team programs. Numbers of daily participants in the Consumer Center rose from 20-30 per day to over 50. The CST added surveying of family members with children in the mental health system renaming itself as the Consumer/Family Satisfaction Team (CFST) and increased its surveying capacity to over 3,000 surveys per year.
In 2005 MHA subcontracted with Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania to be the provider of External Advocate services at Warren State Hospital, helping to ensure consumers had an independent source of advocacy for human rights at that facility. In 2006, MHA developed its second out-of-county contract, providing a Community Advocate in Forest/Warren Counties. In this same year Erie County began contracting with the Consumer Satisfaction Team to survey Drug and Alcohol program consumers receiving county funded services.
In 2008 MHA's Erie programs were operating out of the first floor of our main facility but we were growing again. We had been renting the second floor to a related service that was now looking for a more accessible site. With the help of Erie County MH/MR, our tenant was able to find an appropriate facility and MHA was able to secure funding to renovate the vacated space for our use. Erie County had trained over 50 consumers in the new career option of Certified Peer Specialists and wanted MHA to develop 2 new projects, the Peer Housing Support Program and the Consumer Employment Outreach Coordinator, both providing employment opportunities and support components for some of the newly trained Peer Specialists.
MHA now houses consumer driven/run programs on all floors of its facility. The Consumer Center takes up the entire first floor which used to serve all our programs. It serves 70 to 100 mental health consumers each of the six days per week it operates. Further renovations to that floor in 2010 now offer consumers laundry and shower facilities, a café, and a full kitchen. In the winter of 2008, the Consumer Center joined with Erie County to offer a mental health consumer run Warming Center for any shelterless individuals from 11 at night to 7 the next morning on the coldest of winter nights.
In recent years MHA has continued to explore and develop new options for consumer engagement in self-help support and employment. The role of Certified Peer Specialist has become more accepted as valuable resource for recovery. The Peer Housing Support Team has transitioned into a Free-Standing Peer Support Program billing medical assistance for its services. It has the capacity to serve over 150 peers. In 2012 MHA will begin operating the first consumer run Supported Housing Program in Erie County called Make It a Home Always. Today MHA continues to serve mental health consumers with quality peer based services employing over 35 full and part-time staff, 75% of whom are consumers of mental health services. We are proud of our heritage of service and opportunity for helping persons with mental health needs pursue mental health recovery throughout every aspect of the organization.