WRPA partners with mental health board to develop YDC site

By Justin Wier



The Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board has a new partner in its effort to turn the former Youngstown Developmental Center property into a hub for nonprofits serving vulnerable Valley residents.

Duane Piccirilli, executive director of the mental health board, announced a partnership with the Western Reserve Port Authority at Thursday’s meeting of the Mahoning County commissioners.

“It was challenging, developing the leases, developing the infrastructure that is there. ... We decided to talk to the port authority, and they grabbed it and ran with it.”

John Moliterno, executive director of the port authority, said the parties are in the process of working out each organization’s responsibility.

“We’re excited about it,” Moliterno said. “We think it’s a tremendous opportunity.”

The 35-acre campus on East County Line Road in Austintown previously served as a state-run facility that housed people with developmental disabilities.

It closed June 30, as part of the state’s move away from residential facilities and toward providing group homes for those with developmental disabilities within the community.

The most recent state budget included a provision that offered the mental health board a three-year window to purchase the property for $1.

Community partners including Meridian Health, Alta Behavioral Healthcare and Compass Family and Community Services have discussed potential uses such as adult day-care and using the facility’s industrial kitchen to make meals for Head Start programs or the elderly.

Piccirilli said he wants to have a solid plan in place before the county officially takes control of the property because it will be responsible for all maintenance costs at that point.

He also emphasized the importance of picking programs that will fit in with the surrounding community.

Piccirilli said the board excels at helping those with mental health or addiction programs, but the port authority has more expertise managing a project on this scale.

“I can just deal with the occupancy and let WRPA deal with the things they do well,” he said.

The commissioners voiced support of the partnership.

Commissioner David Ditzler said the state’s decision to close the facility was “appalling” and the plan for the mental health board to take control of the site is the second-best option.

“Our hearts are in the right place when it comes to the most disadvantaged,” Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said. “We are a team, and we’re going to get this done.”

Now that the port authority is on board, Piccirilli said residents should expect to see progress.

“I’m hoping in the next six months, we start to see some movement,” he said.