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Mental health service to expand in St. Marys as providers say referrals are on the rise

Lawmakers and Dickinson employees stand with shovels at a groundbreaking ceremony on April 10.
Dawn Snyder
Dickinson Center, Inc.
Lawmakers and employees of Dickinson Center, Inc. celebrated the groundbreaking of a new mental health facility in St. Marys on April 10. Construction is expected to last a year, meaning the building should be open in April 2025.

A new mental health facility will open in St. Marys next year. Providers say mental health referrals are on the rise in Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Dickinson Center, Inc.’s new building will combine all its services, including behavioral health, intellectual disabilities, and prevention for more serious mental health issues down the line.

Tana Smith is the Director of Institutional Advancement for Journey Health System. Dickinson is an affiliate of that health system. She said it has seen an increase in referrals over the past five years.

“More recently, we definitely have seen, particularly in kids, an increase in depression and anxiety," Smith said.

Smith said she’s worked in mental health for more than 20 years. She said reduced stigma is making it easier for people in need to reach out.

Smith said the new facility will help expand suicide prevention programs in the area. She says a 2021 Pennsylvania Youth Survey, which is the most recent available, shows the need for preventative services in the area.

“One in 10 Elk County seniors and two in 10 8th graders had actually attempted suicide. So this program is actually designed to help us identify it and give the kids who might be suffering in silence an opportunity to connect with support," Smith said, referring to the SOS Program.

A construction site at the diamond in St. Marys, Pa.
Dawn Snyder
Dickinson Center Inc.
The construction site of the future Dickinson's facility at the diamond in St. Marys. Organizers say the new building should be open by April 2025.

Dickinson held its groundbreaking ceremony for the new building last month at the diamond at 28 Railroad Street.

Bob Ordiway is a Dickinson board member, and chairs the fundraising committee for the Dickinson building project. He said the new building is replacing a blighted property downtown across from the Community Education Council.

“You can see how that will tie into the CEC building and the St. Marys pharmacy properties and fill that gap in town so that the community has a central business district that looks appealing," Ordiway said.

Dickinson also has locations in St. Marys, Ridgway, Coudersport and Bradford, but this is only the second that combines all their services.

"We in 2012 built a facility in Ridgway that consolidated all of our services, and we've really seen the benefits and convenience for consumers and staff just to be able to get all their needs met in one area," said Jim Prosper, Dickinson's Executive Director.

Dickinson's new facility is scheduled to be completed in April 2025. Prosper said the facility will have an outpatient clinic and medication services.

Sydney Roach is a reporter and host for WPSU with a passion for radio and community stories.