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The Friday Group

Woman laying on floor

Secretary O'Bannon's threat had a profound impact on Keystone. The Board and staff confronted a deep commitment to the people they had brought home from State Centers. This was probably the first time the seriousness of the covenant we had entered into hit us. Collectively, we decided that we never again wanted to be vulnerable to the decision of a single person that could undermine that covenant. Consequently, we convened a strategic planning group to define a path that would protect against such external threats. Mark Ritter chaired the planning group, which was called the Friday Group. The Friday Planning Group would define a directed strategy of service and geographic diversification. This strategy formed the foundation of Keystone's strategic direction and growth over the coming years. Mark eventually founded Key Human Services, Inc. in Connecticut, working with Brian Lensick and Charley Galloway.

Keystone Residence of Lancaster

Following the decisions that came out of the work of the Friday Group, Keystone expanded, first into Cumberland County and then Lancaster County. This first agency was known as Keystone Residence of Lancaster. These services are now part of Keystone’s Intellectual Disability Services.

Gateway Employment Group joins Keystone

Working in Burger King

In 1976 Gateway Employment Group, headed by Rick Stamm, Robert Matteson and Don Kuhns, would be the second organization to join Keystone. Rick Stamm and I were both pilots for the Tactical Electronic Warfare Group of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard. During our flights together, we had many conversations about creating better human services. These conversations led to Gateway's affiliation with Keystone and Rick's leadership as Gateway's executive director. Robert Matteson would serve as Keystone's fourth Board Chairman and would receive the Edna Silberman Humanitarian Award in 1994. Gateway Employment group is now part of Keystone’s Mental Health Services in Pennsylvania.

Early Intervention Programs joins Keystone

Early Intervention Programs, Inc. joined Keystone in 1983 when EIP lost its funding over a conflict with the County MH/MR Office. EIP's executive director, Sylvia Herman, approached me about the possibility of EIP joining with Keystone. Once again, we said yes. The Parent Advisory Board of EIP was invited to join with Keystone and a proposal was presented to the Counties. EIP, Inc. was formed and all services and funding continued without a break.

EIP, Inc. grew dramatically over the years as the need for children's services grew. Mary Kratzer, the Chairman of the EIP Parent Advisory Board, joined Keystone's Board where she served as Board Chairman. Mary was also the 1992 recipient of the Edna Silberman Humanitarian Award. The staff and Board worked to design a program that would replicate the service approach based on the national Regional Intervention Program model. Cumberland, Perry and Dauphin counties provided the initial funding for the behavioral intervention services. Over time, services expanded to include outpatient treatment, Student Assistance and EPSDT services. Services also expanded into additional counties.

Northumberland County

In 1984, Mike Breslin, Northumberland County MH/MR Administrator, asked if we would be willing to take over the county's residential services on Friday at the end of the week. Their local provider was collapsing and they needed an experienced agency on very short notice. I met with Mike and we said yes. On the following Friday, Mark Ritter moved into the Holiday Inn in Sunbury, and he and his staff took over operations of the Northumberland County system on Saturday. This agency would become Keystone Residence of Northumberland County and has now evolved into Keystone Human Services North Central. These services are now part of Keystone’s Intellectual Disability Services.

The Commonwealth and the CASSP Institute

In 1985 Mel Knowlton asked Keystone to host the Commonwealth Institute. The intent was to create a values-based training institute for the people involved in the community movement. Thomas Neuville was hired as executive director and Bill West, Helen Zipperlan, Mark Friedman, David Swartz and I served as founding Board Members. Similarly, in 1992 Keystone developed the Pennsylvania CASSP (Child and Adolescent Service Systems Program) Institute in partnership with the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health. The CASSP Institute conducted state-wide training on children's mental health issues. The CASSP Institute later left the Keystone incubator and affiliated with Penn State University.

On to Hartford

Group of children playing Parcheesi

In 1988 Brian Lensick and myself were both doing presentations at the Lassaick State School in Upper New York. Brian asked if I would do my presentation on "Clienthood - the New Slavery" for his executive staff in Hartford. I agreed with reservation and did the presentation the next month. At the end of the presentation, several of Brian's regional directors approached and asked about Keystone's interest in helping with the Mansfield Dispersal. Mansfield was a State Center much like Pennhurst and Willowbrook.

We thought long and hard about going to Connecticut and in the end said yes. I asked Mark Ritter if he and his family would be interested in moving to Hartford. Mark also said yes and assumed the leadership responsibilities of Key. Key was fully funded as a new agency, although we learned many years later that Key had been given some of the most challenging people in Connecticut. I remember one young woman who, on an almost daily basis, would break out all the windows in the house as the neighbors would gather to watch. Key rapidly grew into a respected and strong Connecticut agency bringing with it the capacity, vision and values held by Keystone.

Best Valued Communities

In 1989, Susan Kerpan co-founded the Best Valued Community seminars. Susan was joined by Thomas Neuville as co-facilitator for many years. These seminars have been attended by hundreds of Keystone employees and focus on the significance of one's work in one's life.

Head Start

In 1990, Keystone was asked to assume responsibility for Head Start Services in the tri-county area. Keystone said yes, and Capital Area Head Start has grown into an important child development resource in Central Pennsylvania, serving over 1,000 families.