Mckees Rocks Eyes Mental Health Service Gaps

By Smydo, Joe | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), February 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Mckees Rocks Eyes Mental Health Service Gaps


Smydo, Joe, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Seeking support for a large population with mental illness, civic leaders in McKees Rocks have called mental health agencies to a summit Wednesday, hoping they will ramp up services and have a greater stake in the community's turnaround efforts.

"It is expected that this will be the start of a series of action-oriented meetings that will address a comprehensive plan to fully serve this vulnerable population," Cynthia L. Haines, executive director of Focus on Renewal, said in an email.

FOR, a nonprofit with a community center that attracts many people with mental illness, organized the meeting.

McKees Rocks and Homestead were featured Jan. 3 in the first installment of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's "No Safe Harbor" series on mental illness and housing. The story quoted law enforcement, emergency medical service and other officials as saying they've seen an increase in mental health-related calls in recent years and believe that their economically disadvantaged communities are home to above-average numbers of people with mental illness, partly because of low housing costs.

Since then, civic leaders in McKees Rocks said they view improved services for the mentally ill as an integral part of a comprehensive community improvement plan that includes other health and wellness initiatives, new educational opportunities, economic development, more green space and recreational amenities.

"We're not running from this issue. We're embracing it," said Taris Vrcek, executive director of McKees Rocks Community Development Corp.

Sister Sarah Crotty, FOR associate director, said the agency believes it has been subsidizing mental health services through the community center, which provides a gathering place, serves lunch and operates a food bank. …

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