Service Agencies Unite at Rechristened Campus of Care

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – Local elected officials, public and private health providers and other community leaders gathered Friday at the former Youngstown Developmental Center to celebrate its rechristening as the new Mahoning Valley Campus of Care. 

In 2015, then-Gov. John Kasich announced plans to close the 10-building, 35-acre campus, which housed those with developmental disabilities. 

Since then, a wide range of partners that included the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board, Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Mahoning County Commissioners, Western Reserve Port Authority and state legislators worked to acquire the campus  and fund upgrades.

Services being provided will include respite care, recreation and fitness programs, healthy food production, medical services, youth and senior support services and spiritual support. Clients will come mainly from Mahoning and Trumbull counties and could include others in the region.

Operating programs and services at the campus will be Compass Family & Community Services, Flying High Inc., Alta Care Group, Easterseals, Meridian Healthcare, Cadence Care Network, Potential Development and I Am Boundless.

“There’s nothing else like this in the entire state of Ohio and probably nothing else like this in the whole country,” said Duane Piccirilli, executive director of the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board.  

The decision by Mahoning County Commissioners to move forward with the project wasn’t always an easy or popular one, but “was absolutely the right decision,” he said. 

Piccirilli was among several speakers who singled out Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti for her role in driving the project. 

“This woman dug into this project and did not let it go,” he said. 

“Carol is the heart and soul of our board,” said fellow commissioner David Ditzler. “She’s really just been the impetus of this.”  

“It took us five years of working as a group,” Rimedio-Righetti said. “Mahoning County has the best of the best. We are a team.”  

The county commissioners also praised the port authority, which was brought into the project to help finance the redevelopment of the campus. The port authority will also manage it for five year and after that period, it will have the option to acquire the buildings.

The port authority, which is typically involved in business development, “had to step back and decide whether this fit who and what we are,” said its executive director, John Moliterno.

“As we discussed it as a board, we realized that this might be the most important project that we’ve become involved with,” touching “the heart and soul of the entire community,” he continued. “We need to reach out as a society to help the people that are not in a position to be able to help themselves.” 

The port authority conducted an assessment of the property last year to determine the extent of the repairs needed. Only a relatively minimal $1 million in work was identified, said Randy Partika, WRPA project manager and development engineer. 

“The goal is to have everybody in January,” he said. 

The 2015 announcement of the developmental center’s closing was among the issues that state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-58 Youngstown, found herself confronting in her first term. Even as recently as a few months ago, she was concerned that the project might fall apart. 

“So I’m so happy to be here today,” she said, and she pledged that the local delegation would continue to find funding for the project. 

State Sen. Mike Rulli, R-33 Salem, praised commissioners for their foresight in finding a reuse for the YDC property.

“In Europe, they rejuvenate and they revitalize campuses and buildings. In America, we tear them down and build brand new ones,” Rulli said. “That’s a foolish philosophy of life.” 

Among the various service providers occupying buildings is Compass Family and Community Services. 

In addition to establishing a residential facility in one building for individuals with mental illness, addictions and physical disabilities, Compass will consolidate its two existing administrative offices in Trumbull and Mahoning counties on the campus, said Joseph Caruso, president and CEO. That will permit Compass to expand services in the spaces that previously housed the two administrative offices. 

“So we’re not only going to be able to add services here at the Campus of Care, but were also going to be able to help add services in the community,” he said. 

One of Compass’ initiatives on the campus will be a workforce development program targeting individuals with work-limiting disabilities, he said. Meanwhile, Flying High Inc. will implement the Access Healthy Foods Mahoning Valley Program in one of the buildings, said Executive Director Jeff Magada

“We’ll be taking vulnerable, underutilized workers and helping train them in the food service industry,” he said. 

In addition, the program will distribute fresh produce to area food deserts and corner stores that have limited food access, as well as pop-up markets through Flying High’s community partners including the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods, or Action, he said.    

Alta Care Group will bring six Head Start classes to the campus, said CEO Joe Shorokey. 

“The other really neat thing we’re going to be doing is developing a mental wellness center for children, adolescents and families,” he said. 

In addition to traditional behavioral health services, the center will offer nontraditional, experimental services such as garden therapy, adventure therapy, yoga, mindfulness and art therapy to “help get kids feeling healthy and well in a whole different way than we normally would,” he said. 

Pictured: Western Reserve Port Authority Executive Director John Moliterno and Mahoning County Mental Health & Recovery Board Executive Director Duane Piccirilli were among the officials that celebrated the rechristening of the Mahoning Valley Campus of Care.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.