Mental health clinic a casualty of East Liberty's up-and-coming status
December 29, 2015 12:17 AM
Mercy Behavioral Health closed its outpatient and psychiatric rehabilitation programs at Penn Plaza on Dec. 24.
By Joe Smydo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The pending redevelopment of the Penn Plaza apartment buildings in East Liberty has forced about 200 juveniles and adults receiving mental health services to seek care in other locations, including outside the increasingly fashionable neighborhood.
Mercy Behavioral Health closed its outpatient and psychiatric rehabilitation programs at Penn Plaza on Dec. 24 and has been working with clients to make other treatment arrangements, said Richard Sharp, the organization’s director of child and adolescent behavioral health services.
“We’re trying to offer them as much choice as possible,” he said, acknowledging that disruptions in service can be a hardship for people trying to manage mental illness.
The coming mixed-use development prompted the closure of mental-health offices that Mercy Behavioral and a predecessor had operated for about 20 years. Mr. Sharp said Mercy Behavioral had a “very comfortable lease” at Penn Plaza and has been unable to find another affordable location in East Liberty.
“It’s an up-and-coming neighborhood. ... We were not able to find anything we could live with,” he said.
A few Mercy Behavioral clients live in the apartments, Mr. Sharp said.
Mercy Behavioral said it was on a month-to-month lease and decided to leave now rather than wait until it was told to leave.
The buildings’ owner, Pennley Park South, has agreed to cover certain moving expenses for about 200 tenants, and some already have left. The buildings attracted many low-income tenants.
Mr. Sharp said the people served by his organization, about half of them children, have the option of receiving therapy and medication management at Mercy Behavioral’s offices at 330 S. Ninth St. on the South Side.
However, if clients wish to continue seeing the psychiatrist who provided medication management in East Liberty, they may do so at one of two other Mercy Behavioral locations. The psychiatrist will see juveniles at 1200 Reedsdale St. on the North Side and juveniles and adults at 925 Penn Ave, Downtown.
Mercy Behavioral spokeswoman Zandy Dudiak said the change could be inconvenient for some clients with transportation difficulties. Mr. Sharp said clients who wish to continue receiving services in East Liberty have been referred to other providers, including Familylinks and Friendship Academy.
“We’re trying to work with each one — one on one — to make sure everyone gets tracked and followed up. ... We’re working diligently to make sure these individuals are kept in service, if that’s their choice, be it with us or someone else,” he said.
Representatives of Friendship Academy could not be reached. Paul Tedesco, senior director of behavioral health for Familylinks, said his organization has the resources to accept Mercy Behavioral clients and so far had fielded calls from a handful of looking to switch providers.
While redevelopment is good news for East Liberty, Mr. Tedesco said, the loss of the Mercy Behavioral program is a blow to the community and the kind of casualty that can occur during a neighborhood revitalization.
He said Familylinks and East Liberty Development Inc. are partnering on a new program to help low-income residents adjust to revitalization and remain in the neighborhood, if they so choose. He said the program, to be supported by the Pittsburgh Foundation, will link residents in subsidized housing with education opportunities and other services.
Mercy Behavioral will continue to provide a therapist to work with patients at East Liberty Family Health Care Center and is working on plans to provide a consulting psychiatrist for the center, Mr. Sharp said.
Joe Smydo: email@example.com or 412-263-1548.
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