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New addiction treatment facility in Greene already needs to expand

A recently established long-term addiction treatment facility in Greene County, the only one of its kind in the region, is already looking to expand.

“We were full within two weeks,” said Holly Martin, chief operating officer for Greenbriar Treatment Center.

Greenebriar opened up the long-term alcohol and drug addiction inpatient treatment center on the fourth floor of WHS-Greene Hospital in Waynesburg in November. Since then, they’ve treated about 89 patients from across the Southwestern Pennsylvania region.

The 12-step program is between 90 and 100 days, depending on the individual’s needs. Greenbriar has multiple locations in Southwestern Pennsylvania, with 28-day programs and outpatient treatment, but they saw a need for long-term care, since “recovery requires daily maintenance,” according to the staff.

“You aren’t going to change long-term use patterns in a couple weeks,” said Toni Harris, the program supervisor. “This program is for those patients who needed something more structured. They want to do it, they just can’t and need more time.”

The program also treats pregnant woman who struggle with addiction, Martin said, which is uncommon in this region.

“In the past, they’ve had to send them across the state for an inpatient treatment because most places won’t treat pregnant women who are on any type of Subutex program,” she said.

They have 27 male and female patients in the program now, with 14 rooms and two beds in each. The patients are not allowed to leave the building while in the program, though they are not locked inside. They could leave if they chose, but they’d be considered discharged from the program. They aren’t allowed to have cellphones or use the internet.

“They have everything they need here,” Martin said.

They have access to medical treatment if needed, phone calls and family visits, a fitness room and an outdoor recreation space with basketball, volleyball and cornhole.

Martin said about 80 to 90 percent of their patients have successfully completed the program. Those who were discharged from the program either left on their own or were asked to leave the program by administrators for lack of participation or “unsafe behavior.”

Martin said the need is so great that they’re already planning to open up the fifth floor of the hospital building for 16 additional beds this fall. She said they have about 10 people on a waiting list.

Patients, who must be at least 18 years old, are referred to the program through court orders, hospitals or other short-term programs that weren’t successful for them.

“No one ever walks willingly into recovery,” said Jim Mullooly, a duel diagnoses therapist with Greenbriar.

He said that addiction often brings people to their “rock bottom.” He said that can mean ending up in handcuffs and losing their freedom, but many times that can mean losing their friendships, the trust of their family members or the custody of their children.

“Our people do things in their addiction that they never dreamed of doing,” Martin said. “They lose their support systems.”

The referred patient will go through a series of physical and psychological assessments and evaluations, according to Bob Hogan, the social services director. They are assigned to a therapist who will help determine their care plan – group and personal therapy sessions, outside meetings and other necessary life skills sessions.

Martin said that since many of their patients also have mental health conditions, much of the program consists of therapy. Another aspect of it is teaching their patients how to cope with life, especially those who come from unhealthy home environments with families or friends who use drugs.

“It’s all about learning to cope with things the way they are in a healthy way instead of using,” said Peggy O’Neill, director of clinical services for Greenbriar.

Harris said a big part of that is teaching their patients about setting firm boundaries and abiding by them.

“We try to make it black and white for people because they don’t always do well with gray areas,” she said.

Once patients complete the program and are ready to leave, they are set up with an outpatient treatment plan, to continue on their recovery path, Hogan said.

“It’s extremely common for them to use immediately after they leave here,” he said. “That’s why everybody has a continued treatment plan when they leave here. We don’t want to lose them.”

For information about Greenbriar’s treatment programs or to make a referral, contact a representative at 1-800-637-4673.

Photo courtesy of Crystal May Jones 

Courtesy of Crystal May Jones

Constance Lester, 91, of New Eagle, sits with her family Wednesday for their annual reunion at Kennywood Park on Monongahela Community Day.

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Theft sentence upheld for former manager of Carmichaels Borough

The state Superior Court upheld the sentence and court-ordered reparations of a Carmichaels woman who stole nearly $75,000 from the borough she managed.

Brandi Wydo-Streit, 45, pleaded guilty to the thefts from Carmichaels and was sentenced to one to two years in prison and five years of probation in 2018.

She was additionally ordered to repay $24,965 to the borough, which represents the amount officials were unable to recoup through the borough’s bonding company. A judge also ordered Wydo-Streit to make $15,430 in reparations for a forensic audit the borough had to undertake once the thefts were discovered.

In her appeal, Wydo-Streit contended she received a harsher sentence than others accused of similar crimes in Greene County.

Superior Court Judge Kate Ford Elliott, who wrote the opinion for the three-judge panel, found there was nothing to show that was the case.

The panel also rejected an argument that repaying the audit cost shouldn’t be considered “additional reparations” for the borough.

Wydo-Streit’s attorney contended because officials didn’t regularly audit the borough’s finances, requiring her to repay the $15,430 cost was improper.

Ford Elliott called the argument “disingenuous.”

The opinion noted Greene County Judge Lou Dayich found that while the borough wasn’t diligent, that didn’t alleviate Wydo-Streit’s obligation “to take some measure of financial responsibility for the direct consequences of her criminal conduct.”

Police alleged Wydo-Streit wrote herself 89 additional paychecks between 2012 and 2016, using the money to pay for personal needs.

Officials first learned there was a problem when a borough police officer tried to cash his paycheck and learned the bank had frozen the borough’s payroll account. When he asked Wydo-Streit, then acting as borough manager, about the issue, she told him she’d stolen the money, authorities said.

During a 2018 sentencing hearing, a borough councilman said the loss of funds forced officials to forego street paving for two years and necessitated the reduction of some employees’ hours.

Charges held against two more in Charleroi beating

Zackary Yagnich testified that Brian Keruskin told him to leave right before the beating in a Charleroi social club that sent a former member of the Pagan Motorcycle Club to the hospital for weeks.

The account Yagnich gave of conversations he had with Keruskin, 57, of North Charleroi shortly before and after the April 18 attack on Troy Harris were part of a hearing during which District Judge Larry Hopkins ordered Keruskin and alleged co-conspirator Joseph Olinsky III, 45, of McKeesport to stand trial on conspiracy to commit homicide, attempted homicide, aggravated assault and other charges filed by Charleroi Regional police. Both men are being held in jail without bond.

Harris, of Fallowfield Township, sustained a traumatic brain injury and numerous other wounds during the attack, and was flown to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh that night. His wife, Michele, testified that he was unconscious until May 1, and spent a total of seven weeks in different hospitals.

He faces charges in Allegheny County stemming from a handgun that was found in his pocket and had been reported stolen, but no one has testified they saw him with one at the bar.

Ryan Tutera, Olinsky’s attorney, said that no witness at the hearing had been able to place his client inside the Slovak Club during the beating. Washington County Detective Kiprian Yarosh testified that Jamie Granato – who at the time was the fiancée of Matthew Vasquez, another Pagan – had identified Olinsky by a nickname in surveillance video and had some information about him – including that he was on federal probation – but seemed not to know him well.

“It’s hearsay upon hearsay,” Tutera said after the hearing. He added: “Granato doesn’t know (Olinsky).”

He also said that there had been no evidence that anyone had planned to kill Harris. For example, no weapons were used.

“They never showed a specific intent to kill,” he said.

Tutera also questioned the significance of the fact that a surveillance camera had captured the license plate of a motorcycle registered to his client around the time of the assault. His client owns multiple motorcycles, and someone else could have used it.

Yagnich – who described himself as having been a supporter of the Pagans but not a member – said he spoke to Keruskin, who is president of the club’s Fayette City chapter, shortly before the attack, when he told him to leave the area. They met up later that night at a bar in Perryopolis. There, Keruskin asked him if surveillance footage from the bar could be erased, he said.

“That’s conspiracy,” said Deputy District Attorney Jason Walsh.

Michael Zagari, Keruskin’s attorney, said Keruskin’s warning to Yagnich wasn’t evidence he’d committed any crime.

“At most, that’s awareness, and that’s it – awareness that something might happen,” he said.

Yagnich, 26, of Charleroi conceded under cross-examination by Zagari that Keruskin never actually asked him to do anything regarding the surveillance footage.

Yagnich said he agreed to look into erasing the footage, but it was never deleted. Video of the attack was played last month during a hearing for six other reputed Pagans – Corey Volk, 24, of West Newton; Paul Cochran, 54, of Charleroi; John Sadvary Jr., 39, of Penn Hills; Vasquez, 30, of Monessen; Joshua Pagliei, 43, of Monongahela; and Jason Huff, 40, of Plum – who also are in jail as they face charges in the attack.

Granato, 28, also is charged. She is cooperating with prosecutors but hasn’t testified.

Michele Harris, the victim’s husband, testified that her husband had been brought into the Pagans by Keruskin. But at some point, the men had fallen out.

She said her husband was now a member of the Sutar Soldiers, an offshoot motorcycle club.

She was sitting a few seats away from her husband at the bar about 10:15 p.m. when she said the group of “seven to eight” men filed inside behind Yagnich. One of them knocked her husband off his stool, and she wound up crawling between their legs as they kicked at him, and took some blows herself. By the time they left, she was trying to shield him.

“I thought they were going to kill him,” she said.