NAMI Northeast Begins Walk-and-Talk Series

NAMI Northeast Region Executive Director Marie Onukiavage met recently with outdoor professionals in the community to connect on a new series of monthly walks to highlight help provided by NAMI while encouraging participants to experience the healing power of nature.

NAMI will collaborate with Ski Shack owner and yoga instructor Melissa Roberts on planning locations and having Melissa offer stress-relieving breathing techniques and guidance on walking trails. Marie met recently with Melissa and Paul Bechtel, Lackawanna County Director of Parks & Recreation, who provided information and input on parks throughout the county that offer beautiful trails for everyone to explore as they attempt to unplug from daily stressors and plug in to the peace and tranquility that exists among the trees and greenery.

NAMI encourages everyone in the community to join them on June 26 at 6 p.m. at Camp Freedom as they highlight men’s mental health and the importance of talking about it openly to remove stigma. NAMI will share information and resources available and nonprofit Camp Freedom personnel will spotlight the many wonderful services they provide, along with leading a walk on their scenic property.

The Scranton Counseling Center Launches Crisis Unit

The Scranton Counseling Center marked a significant milestone with the successful launch of its Crisis Receiving Stabilization Unit on January 5th, 2024. This facility represents a crucial advancement in mental health care for Lackawanna and Susquehanna counties, providing both overnight and crisis residential support for adults in a secure environment for up to 72 hours. The center specializes in delivering immediate crisis counseling and creating personalized safety plans, catering to adults from the mentioned counties. The emphasis on direct and personalized care reflects the center’s commitment to addressing mental health concerns promptly and effectively.

Importantly, the center adopts a no-appointment-necessary approach, eliminating barriers to access and ensuring individuals can seek immediate support during times of crisis. This proactive stance aligns with the center’s dedication to making mental health services readily available, underscoring the importance of timely assistance for those in need. The launch of this facility signifies not only a significant step forward in mental health care but also a tangible commitment to fostering a responsive and accessible support system within the community.

Boback Meets Discusses School Mental Health Initiative

Rep. Karen Boback (R-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Wyoming) met recently with Mark Barden, co-founder and CEO of the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund, who wanted to acknowledge her work to create a new School Mental Health Initiative for Pennsylvania’s public schools.

Barden’s 7-year-old son, Daniel, was one of the 26 victims of the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn., nearly 10 years ago. His nonprofit organization works to advance legislation that promotes gun safety, youth mental health and violence prevention training.

“So at the Sandy Hook Promise, we have long been on a mission, plain and simple, to prevent other families from having to endure the pain of losing a loved one to preventable violence,” Barden said. “We know that evidence-based violence prevention programs are effective. We have a growing database of interventions, where school shootings have been prevented, along with other acts of violence such as suicides, so we know that this works.”

Boback was the prime sponsor of House Bill 540, a proposal included in the 2022-23 state budget that provides $100 million for the initiative.

“The School Mental Health Initiative is modeled after ideas developed by Mark’s organization, and I am proud of my role in bringing it to our schools,” said Boback. “Under the new program, every school district in the Commonwealth will receive a grant of at least $100,000 to address the mental health needs of students.”   

“When we can partner with champions and leaders like Rep. Boback to get this legislation done, it is from the bottom of my heart that I come here and offer my deepest appreciation,” added Barden.

The Wright Center Mental Health First Aid Training Sessions

Training in mental health first aid – a method for recognizing and helping a person with a mental health issue before it results in injury or death – will be offered to the public and employees of The Wright Center for Community Health as part of a national grant-funded initiative.

The Wright Center was recently selected to receive one of eight “training scholarships” to participate in the project, which is supported by Americares and the National Association of Community Health Centers.

The scholarship allows one staff member from each of the eight chosen organizations to become a certified trainer through the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

Owen Dougherty, The Wright Center’s recovery supports manager and behavioral health community liaison, completed his certification with the council in mid-March. He will conduct multiple public training sessions later this year for participants in Northeast Pennsylvania, helping them to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders, and empowering them to intervene when someone needs support.

The free sessions will be open to The Wright Center’s employees and other interested residents, including people with no medical background. Participants will learn to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health issue, not unlike stepping in to call 9-1-1 or provide CPR to someone experiencing a heart attack.

The Wright Center, which operates nine primary care practices in the region, provides a range of mental and behavioral services for patients of all ages, and this training program will serve as a further extension of behavioral health education in the community, says Laura Spadaro, vice president of primary care and public health policy.

“Equipping our community with the skills they need to recognize and respond to signs of mental health and substance use disorders,” she says, “will decrease stigma, empower individuals to seek help and increase each participant’s ability to help others who may be experiencing a behavioral health issue.”

Mental health first aid was first introduced in Australia in 2001, and the program was later adapted for use in the United States. Since then, more than 2.5 million people in the United States have been trained by a base of more than 15,000 instructors, according to promoters.

Trainees learn, for example, how to appropriately and safely respond if they see someone having a panic attack or if they become concerned that a friend or co-worker might be showing signs of alcoholism. Mental health first aid takes the fear and hesitation out of starting conversations about mental health and substance use problems by improving understanding and providing an action plan.

Americares, based in Stamford, Connecticut, is a health-focused relief and development organization that saves lives and improves health for people affected by disaster or poverty.

The National Association of Community Health Centers, headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, promotes efficient, high-quality, comprehensive health care that is accessible, culturally and linguistically competent, community-directed and patient-centered for all.

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing, the organization that brought mental health first aid to the United States and certifies trainers, is the unifying voice of organizations that deliver mental health and substance use services in America. The Washington, D.C.-based council is guided by the vision that mental well-being – including recovery from substance use – is a reality for everyone, everywhere.

The Wright Center, which joins with other organizations in promoting May as Mental Health Awareness Month, will announce the dates of its mental health first aid training sessions as they are scheduled. For the latest information on those and the organization’s other upcoming events, visit

Marywood to Offer Free, Confidential Depression Screenings

Marywood University’s Psychological Services Center (PSC) will offer free and confidential depression screenings as part of National Depression Screening Day on Thursday, October 7, 2021, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the Psychological Services Center, located in the McGowan Center for Professional Studies. No appointment is necessary, the screenings are free and open to the public, and people of all ages are welcome.

Held annually, National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) raises awareness and screens people for depression and related mood and anxiety disorders. The screenings are anonymous and confidential, and no commitment is necessary.

Treatment options for depression will be offered. For additional information on National Depression Screening Day at Marywood University, please contact the Psychological Services Center, at (570) 348-6269, or visit the Center’s web page, at

Tobyhanna Employee Services Center Offers Short-Term Counseling, Resources for Workforce

When employees at Tobyhanna Army Depot experience a mental health issue, they don’t need to look far for help. The depot’s Employee Services Center (ESC) is available to provide short-term counseling and support for a variety of issues.

The ESC mission focuses on prevention, education, training and short-term counseling in the areas of substance abuse, suicide, sexual assault, and employee work/life well-being.  All services are confidential and take place on post.

Brittany Anderson, the ESC’s Community Support Advocate, is a board-certified clinical counselor who specializes in family situations as well as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She outlined the distinction between ESC services and the traditional mental health care model.

“Our services are not intended for long-term mental health treatment. Instead, we offer members of Team Tobyhanna brief, solution-focused counseling. During sessions, we work with clients to help them balance their stress and create a foundation for their next steps,” she said, adding that clients with issues that require long-term treatment are referred out to therapists and/or services in the community which are tailored to meet employee needs.  But ESC support doesn’t stop once a referral is made.

“Even after referral, we maintain contact and offer follow-ups to ensure Tobyhanna Army Depot is an environment that supports employees during their times of need. We want to ensure employees know that we’re here as they move on to the next step of their journey,” Anderson said.

“At the end of counseling, we hope our clients leave with an improved quality of life and the ability to address their challenge. Team Tobyhanna – if you need help, please reach out. We will never turn anyone away.”

The ESC is led by Tobyhanna newcomer Ricardo Horn. Horn is a licensed social worker who earned his Master’s Degree from the Marywood University School of Social Work, where he continues to provide support as an adjunct professor. As the Chief of the ESC, he oversees formal programs such as the Employee Assistance Program, Army Substance Abuse Program, and the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Program.  Horn also joins Anderson in providing mental health care to depot employees – a growing mission for the ESC team, one Horn says he hopes more people utilize in the future.

“Despite the prevalence of mental illness in America, the stigma associated with counseling still prevents many people from getting the help they need,” said Horn. “Mental health awareness is important because it brings attention, focusing on the potential for recovery.”

He adds, “Seeking help is a sign of courage and should never be viewed as a weakness or personal shortcoming.”

According to the World Health Organization, one in four people worldwide is affected by a mental health issue or disorder.

The services of the ESC are available to all Department of Defense employees and their immediate family members.  For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the ESC office at (570) 615-8873. If you or a loved one are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the ESC Hotline at (570) 615-5591.

Award Winning Journalist Tracey Matisak to Host WVIA Mental Health Initiative Mind Over Matter

Award winning journalist Tracey Matisak will host the WVIA and Geisinger presented mental health initiative Mind Over Matter

“We are excited to have Tracey guide conversations and increase awareness of mental illness prevention, treatment, and management in our area” said Ben Payavis II, WVIA’s Chief Content Officer. “Her extensive resume and inquisitive approach make her an ideal partner on this project to inform and engage the people of northeastern and central Pennsylvania.”

“Mental health is a topic that, until recently, has not gotten the attention it deserves. While we have all been (rightly) focused on COVID-19, the anxiety and depression that have come along with it have created something of a secondary pandemic. I’m encouraged by those in the public eye who have courageously come forward to share their challenges and spark a national and long overdue conversation around mental health. It’s a topic that has touched my own life, and one that I’m looking forward to exploring with WVIA viewers through Mind Over Matter. My hope is that the series will encourage and challenge us all, and heighten our awareness and sensitivity to this important topic” said Matisak.

With more than 30 years of major market television and radio experience, Tracey has anchored numerous special projects for WHYY-TV/PBS in Philadelphia; she also serves as a regular guest host on WHYY-FM’s Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane. In addition, Tracey serves as moderator for the Philadelphia Speakers Series, where she has shared the stage with the likes of NBC’s Tom Brokaw, former British Prime Minister David Cameron, Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson and acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns.

Tracey is a frequent moderator for the Author Events series at the Free Library of Philadelphia, where she has interviewed former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, entertainer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington and Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, among others. 

In addition, Tracey travels nationwide hosting live, interactive executive leadership webcasts for Skillsoft Corporation. In that capacity, she regularly interviews some of the most widely respected authors and speakers in the business world, including Daniel Pink, Seth Godin, John Maxwell and Angela Duckworth.

Tracey is perhaps best known for her work in television news, having worked for 12 years at FOX 29, Philadelphia. There, she anchored the live morning show Good Day Philadelphia and served as an anchor and reporter for FOX 29’s Ten O’Clock News. She was also a contributor to the HGTV show Design Basics, and has served as a news anchor for a number of Philadelphia radio stations, including KYW Newsradio.

A graduate of Temple University, Tracey taught for several years there as an adjunct instructor in the Klein College of Media and Communication. A winner of several local Emmy awards, Tracey was among the first to be inducted into Temple University’s School of Media and Communications Hall of Fame. She has also won the Sarah Award for Excellence in Broadcasting from the Association for Women in Communications and was named Communicator of the Year by the National Black MBA Association.

Originally from Hazleton, PA, Tracey and her husband Daniel are the parents of three young adults; they live in suburban Philadelphia.

Mind Over Matter is a yearlong initiative which includes programs and presentations created by WVIA. The series goal is to combat the stigma and increase awareness, prevention, treatment and management of a range of mental Illnesses. Like WVIA’s successful Battling Opioids series, this public health initiative aims to improve the mental and physical health of our community through a multi-platform approach that will include TV, radio, and digital content.

Major funding for Mind Over Matter is provided by Geisinger.

On Thursday, August 26th at 8pm the initiative will present Living with Alzheimer’s & Dementia, a program that explores the effects these diseases have on individuals, families and communities. 

To find more information and to learn more about Mind Over Matter visit