He’s only 17, but Nick Smith says the past year has been the best of his life. He credits Harborcreek Youth Services (HYS), a psychiatric residential treatment center for young people.
“It saved my life,” says Nick, whose real last name is withheld to protect his privacy.
Located in Harborcreek not far from the shores of Lake Erie in the Diocese of Erie, HYS is home to about 65 mostly young men who have been court-appointed or placed because of mental health issues or a history of personal trauma. It operates under the auspices of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Erie, offering not only residential care, but behavioral health services, foster care and specialized family therapy.
On May 11, Nick had even more reason to celebrate as HYS dedicated its new Father Jim Fahey Therapeutic Arts Center.
The Therapeutic Arts Center aims to reach troubled youth through various expressive therapies, including art, music and movement.
“This gives the boys a lot more opportunity for different kinds of activity and therapy,” says John Petulla, executive director of HYS and the main mover behind the three-year effort to build the Therapeutic Arts Center.
For Nick, playing the guitar or banging on some drums have helped.
“In my opinion, it’s an outlet for emotions and trauma,” Nick says. “If you don’t want to sit there and explain it to a therapist, if you don’t want to sit there and tell your mom exactly how you feel, then put it in a song, record it and do something with it.”
Mercyhurst University President Michael Victor spoke at the dedication ceremony, expressing his appreciation for the longtime relationship Mercyhurst has had with HYS.
In 2015, the Mercyhurst University-Harborcreek Youth Services Partnership was established to help build the Therapeutic Arts Initiative.
“Through music, art and movement therapy combined with counseling, we are making great strides in helping these young people discover self-worth, emotional expression and social skills,” Victor told those gathered for the dedication ceremony. “What could be more motivating or more inspiring?”
*Article contributed by Mary Solberg, Editor, FaithLife.