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Mental Health Month Luncheon - Post Luncheon Release

May 10, 2005

News Release For Immediate Release

May 10, 2005

At a luncheon held today at the Ramada Inn in Dunkirk, Southern Tier Environments for Living celebrated National Mental Health Month by honoring several individuals and organizations. The luncheon also featured keynote speaker Mary Fristad, Ph.D., director of Psychological Services and a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Her topic was “Treating Depressed Children: Are Medications a Help or a Hindrance?”

Winner of “The DuBois Award for the 2004 Employee of the Year” was Diane Melson of Jamestown, who received two nominations. During her 20 years with STEL, Ms. Melson has stayed committed to the North Main Community Residence in Jamestown. She began her career as a rehabilitation counselor and was later promoted to the position of assistant residential manager. The first nomination narrative stated, “It is not a very well kept secret that Diane will be greatly missed on both a professional and, -MORE- STEL Presents Awards at Annual Mental Month Luncheon Add 1 most importantly, on a personal level.” A comment in the second nomination reported, “One of her greatest strengths is her ability never to appear frustrated with anything that was going on in an often-busy group home.” Ms. Melson plans to retire in November.

“The Success of the Year Award” is presented annually to a recipient of STEL services who has demonstrated exceptional progress in achieving personal rehabilitation goals. The winner of this year’s award is Richard Kniese of Dunkirk. The manager of STEL’s Park Avenue Community Residence in Dunkirk said in her nomination narrative, “Richard spent the first six months with us giving notice. At first, he did not want to stay, but then something changed with him. He embraced the methods of psychiatric rehabilitation and began to make positive changes. Today, he has held a job at STEL’s main office for a year, getting to and from work independently. The nomination concludes, “Richard excels in many skill areas and if he struggles with a particular skill, then he works hard to improve. He treats everyone with respect and consideration. Richard is very motivated!” On October 19, 2003, John Theismann, vocational specialist in STEL’s Work Force Program, passed away. He STEL Presents Awards at Annual Mental Health Month Luncheon was a dedicated individual who cared for his consumers and helped to ensure their success in the workplace. In his memory, STEL has established the “John Theismann Vocational Services Award” that will honor consumers who are successful, not only at work, but also in overcoming barriers at and/or outside the workplace. Teri Newhouse of Jamestown is the recipient of this year’s award. She is a cleaner for Allied Industries. She has been employed since April 2004 and is part of a crew that cleans The Resource Center Day Treatment facility in Jamestown. Ms. Newhouse’s job duties include cleaning the conference room, kitchen, physical therapy rooms and break rooms. The nomination says that she is very thorough in completing her duties and takes pride in her work. “Her co-workers enjoy working with her and she has become a valuable member in the workplace. Teri has successfully transitioned from a Community Residence, then to the Apartment Program, and is currently a resident in STEL’s Supported Housing Program.”

The Southern Tier Environments for Living “Community Service Awards,” one to an individual and one to an organization, were introduced several years ago. The awards have the following criteria: (1) Selection is based on volunteer or professional service to individuals in the STEL Presents Awards at Annual Mental Health Month Luncheon  Southern Tier community who have psychiatric disabilities; and (2) The quality of the service must be documented in a narrative that provides specific examples. This year’s recipient of the “Community Service Award to an Individual” is Janet Chew of Jamestown. Ms.Chew is a social worker for WCA Hospital’s Adult Mental Health Unit. The nomination narrative begins, “She has proven to be an asset to the mental health field through the work she has done for consumers and family members, as well as fellow providers.” The narrative continues, “She has provided assistance to many consumers over the years to help them with linkages to STEL whenever an individual has demonstrated a need for residential rehabilitation services.” Robert Roth, STEL’s director of mental health services, who nominated Janet Chew, wrote in his narrative, “As a fellow provider, I have been able to witness Ms. Chew’s compassion, dedication and overall genuine enthusiasm that have enhanced the quality of life for individuals with the impact of mental illness.” The winner of this year’s “Community Service Award to an Organization” is Hills Funeral Chapel in Gowanda. According to the nomination narrative, “Mr. Dennis Hills, the funeral director, has offered his unconditional support in the death of two of our residents in the past year. Mr. Hills and his associates have been very helpful in assisting grieving families, staff members and friends with many decisions that arise in planning a funeral. Their experience has helped guide us during times of great emotional distress. Many of the STEL residents do not have the finances necessary for the basic funeral service and, unfortunately, government benefits are severely limited.” On several occasions, Mr. Hills has waived the charges for many of the basic costs and support functions. He explained that this is his way of giving back to the community. The nomination concludes, “The Hills Funeral Chapel exemplifies the meaning of community service. Their service is one of the few that gives love and compassion and does not expect it in return.”

STEL’s executive director Thomas J. Whitney and David Maternowski, board president and chairman of the Special Events Committee that coordinates the event, presented the awards. Dick Kimball, former mayor of Jamestown, presented Certificates of Merit to the awardees, on behalf of Assemblywoman Cathy Young. The Reverend Joseph Vatter, STEL board member and pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Medina, offered the Invocation. Rachel Vazquez, sales & marketing director of Fredonia Place served as emcee. 

Dr. Fristad is currently a member of the American Psychological Association’s working group on Psychoactive Medications for Children and Adolescents. Her keynote presentation emphasized that youth suicide is a serious problem. Mood disorders increase the risk of suicide and antidepressant treatment is used to treat these disorders. According to recent studies, Dr. Fristad reported, the greatest risk of antidepressants is in the first eight weeks of treatment. In order to lower these risks, it is important to educate the adolescent and parent regarding warning signs, monitor carefully, and, most importantly, add psychosocial treatment to the regimen. Dr. Fristad also facilitated a morning workshop with the topic, “Like a Bridge over Troubled Waters: Family-Based Treatment of Bipolar Disorder in Youth.”

STEL offers residential and rehabilitation services to individuals with psychiatric disabilities. The agency’s service area includes Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and southern Erie counties. For more information, contact STEL at its administrative offices at 715 Central Avenue in Dunkirk or call 716-366-3200. 

CONTACT: Jeanne R. Sears Community Education Consultant 716-763-5079