By Zandy Dudiak, Communications coordinator
When Cindy Brown left her job as a service coordinator with Pittsburgh Mercy last December, she realized it was the wrong move. She came back in March to join the Enhanced Clinical Service Coordination (ECSC) Team 2.
In the interim, Cindy worked as a medical service coordinator for another provider. She didn’t feel the provider had the same quality of care as she knew existed at Pittsburgh Mercy. The experience made her more passionate about mental health.
“I knew I made a mistake leaving,” she says. “The grass isn’t always greener. I’m just happy to be back. I really like working in the ECSC team. I already very much feel a part of our team.”
The wrap-around approach of the ECSC teams helps persons served identify the services and supports they need to maintain or improve their community living arrangement and helps them to advance their recovery goals.
Stacey DeWick had been gone from Pittsburgh Mercy almost two years before coming back just short of a month ago. A former member of the Adult Service Coordination team, she missed the way the ECSC Service Coordination teams work together to support the people they serve—and also how Pittsburgh Mercy works to support them.
She is grateful that Diane Johnson, senior manager of the Service Coordination Unit, hired her back to supervise Team 2.
“If it weren’t for her having faith in me again, I wouldn’t be back,” Stacey says. “I have felt very welcomed.”
Teri Vangenewitt was a service coordinator who recently made the leap to the ECSC team because she liked the interdisciplinary and person-centered team approach to dealing with individuals who can be “very challenging” and “very symptomatic.”
“As a team, we are serving more of the person’s needs,” Teri says. “We all have different functions but we work collaboratively to benefit and support the person served. We are dedicated to helping people succeed and remain stable in the community, and live their lives the way they want.”
Stacey says the teams work daily to help the 30 people they serve recover—and stay out of the hospital or jail. It’s not a job that stops at 4:30 p.m.
“These people really depend on the team to show up,” Stacey adds. “We also depend on our persons served to do their part, too. If they aren’t going to participate, we can’t help them.”
Together, the teams work to help each individual served find resources, make goals, and assess needs, such as housing and benefits. Dr. Brenda Freeman, MD, psychiatrist, leads both ECSC teams. Both teams are served by therapists Diane Bieliski, Ryan King, and Erin Betts, as well as Lolita Smith, program assistant.
ECSC Team 1 also includes Monica Waitkus, program supervisor; service coordinators Andrea Dugan and David Lundberg; Dana Parks, RN; and Sean Nestor, peer specialist. In addition to Stacey, Cindy and Teri, rounding out Team 2 are Joanna Cure, RN; and Jesse Allshouse, peer specialist.
“We meet a couple times a week to discuss all our cases,” Cindy says. “It keeps us all on the same page.”
COVID-19 put a crimp in the way the team operated.
“The nurses never stopped going out,” Teri notes. “You can’t give injections and meds over the phone.”
Some contact with persons served was reduced to phone calls, which was difficult, she says. Other times they were able to meet individuals in the community or outside, using precautions. Sadly, for some persons served, the team members were the only contacts they had during the pandemic restrictions.
To serve those in the program better, each team member has received their COVID-19 vaccinations. Right now, Stacey says they are working on “education, education, education” and building trust with their persons served about the importance of getting vaccinated.