WAYNESBURG – Daniel Latanation meticulously logged the step count for each pedometer Thursday before a group of people at Open Arms Drop-in Center prepared for an afternoon stroll through Waynesburg.
Sitting at a table as other members walked around him with coffee or snacks, Latanation checked off the numbers in a three-ring binder for the “walk works” program before assigning the pedometers.
He has worked as a full-time employee at Greene Arc Inc. for five years, including recently as a co-director at the drop-in center on Washington Street near Greene County Courthouse. The drop-in center is an adult service through Greene Arc that helps about 35 county residents undergoing mental rehabilitation find a place to improve social skills and learn to work through problems.
Latanation knows firsthand how Greene Arc can help adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Latanation, 50, has been undergoing his own recovery since being diagnosed in October 1986 with what he called a “mental disorder.” He declined to divulge what that diagnosis was, but said he improved immensely over the past three decades and is feeling more connected to the community.
“I’ve dealt with mental disorder all my life,” Latanation said. “I’ve come a long way.”
Cynthia Dias, executive director for Greene Arc, said her agency focuses on key areas of psychiatric rehab, social rehab, socialization with the drop-in center and peer support programs. The programs are for any Greene County resident 18 and older with a mental health diagnosis for disorders including schizophrenia, major mood disorders, psychotic disorders, borderline personality disorders and schizoaffective disorders.
The drop-in center is particularly important for people who have already undergone psychiatric rehab as they immerse themselves in healthy-living discussions that provide information on topics such as physical fitness, personal hygiene or blood pressure monitoring.
A walk around the block helps with both exercise and socialization, not only for the members, but also the public, Dias said.
“It provides them an opportunity to interact with people in similar situations,” Dias said. “We’re trying to reduce stigma, and that’s the prevailing theme.”
The drop-in center operates five days a week, with social rehab available two of those days. The program is free to members and funded through Value Behavioral Health, an insurer through Medicaid, and Greene County Human Services. Dias said the center gets its members into the community and in public situations, such as bowling or dining our at a restaurant.
“How do we present ourselves in an environment? We’re just another customer in a restaurant enjoying a meal,” Dias said. “The socialization is interwoven into the activities.”
Travis Duncan, Greene Arc’s mental health director, said those activities help the members learn how to “express their feelings” and make progress.
“It’s just really fun to watch them achieve their goals. They’re working and striving to achieve them,” Duncan said. “Everyone takes different time, but they work and progress if they’re truly devoted.”
Latanation, too, has made progress, even while working as a full-time employee for Greene Arc. He said he knew he was “different” while in high school growing up in the Mt. Morris area, but it wasn’t until his diagnosis that he knew why. He’s spent the past three decades working on his recovery, bouncing around in different jobs.
He found an important role with Greene Arc, first as a member and more recently as a co-director for the drop-in center.
“I’m getting my career going again,” Latanation said. “We make friends and meet people for socialization and communication.”
That’s what Greene Arc is designed to do by decreasing hospitalization and finding a role for people in the community. Dias points to Latanation as one of their many success stories.
“Danny has made phenomenal strides in helping others in the mental health recovery process,” Dias said.
For more information about Greene Arc or the drop-in center, call 724-627-7079 and ask to speak to Duncan. For all programs, participants must be Greene County residents, at least 18 years old, involved in psychiatric rehab and peer-support services, and have been diagnosed by a licensed doctor with one of five mood disorders.