First founded in 1969, Milestone has been giving back to the Wilkinsburg community for over 50 years.
According to Executive Director Jordan Coughlen, the idea behind Milestone came from parents who wanted to provide deinstitutionalized and community-focused care for children diagnosed with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD). Since then, however, Milestone has become so much more.
“We have grown from a community-focused IDD day program and residential provider to a multi-faceted, multi-service line agency that provides care to individuals with a mental health diagnosis, substance use disorder, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and those just needing extra care and support in their recovery journey regardless of what they’re dealing with,” Coughlen said.
Milestone has been located in and devoted to the community of Wilkinsburg since it was established. Their first office opened at 712 South Avenue in 1969. Though Milestone may have evolved, their core vision of providing support remains the same.
“The way I see us living out our mission is by going where the greatest needs are and engaging with individuals who may feel lost, forgotten, or overlooked,” Coughlen said, “and looking to meet them exactly where they are without judgment.”
Ken Wood, Assistant Executive Director of Administration, has worked at Milestone for over 25 years, and says that Milestone’s mission-based approach to the work is what most spoke to him and encouraged him to remain employed there until retiring at the end of July 2022.
“How I interpret and my experience of Milestone’s mission is to provide services to individuals to help them achieve their maximum potential, regardless of whether the service is a behavioral health service or an IDD service,” Wood said. “The agency as a whole truly is committed to helping people.”
There are many things that set Milestone apart from other organizations. Specifically, Wood mentioned the peer support services, the partial-hospitalization program for deaf and hard of hearing individuals, and the consumer run drop-in center – especially its inclusion of pet food and supplies – as unique to Milestone. However, like all other businesses, Milestone has also had its fair share of obstacles to overcome.
“I think Milestone, like many agencies, has experienced the full force and consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Coughlen said. “It’s challenged us to adapt and get really creative in the way that we provide care to the individuals that we support.”
One of the ways that Milestone adapted was by offering telehealth services to persons it supports. Coughlen mentioned that going forward, he wants to continue to grow Milestone’s continuum of care. He specifically mentioned the outpatient drug and alcohol program as something he hopes to expand upon.
“We are continuing to focus on outcomes, incorporating technology where it’s appropriate to meet the needs of persons supported, and looking to address the social determinants of health,” Coughlen said. “We recognize that treatment and care is not a one-size-fits-all experience.”
Another challenge that Milestone has faced, according to Wood, is the workforce. They are always looking for ways to be more inclusive and welcoming to staff members and to bring on people who share the Milestone vision to fill vacancies.
“One of the things we’ve found is that when we’re able to hire people who are residents of the communities that we’re providing services in, it seems to work better,” Wood said. “So, right now we’ve been looking to improve the number of people that we can recruit within the context of the Wilkinsburg community.”
One of the things that Milestone has done recently to contribute towards this goal is making salary increases to be more competitive among other work opportunities in Wilkinsburg.
“We employ people in the community, we serve people in the community, and we take every opportunity we can to invest in the community,” Coughlen said. “So, we hope to embark on several capital improvement projects at our Wilkinsburg locations.”
Coughlen added that Milestone’s goal is to enhance the environment and experience of persons supported, but they also want to contribute to the community in a way that other Wilkinsburg residents can take pride in.
“Not only do we want to maintain the programs that we have in Wilkinsburg and for the Wilkinsburg community,” Coughlen said, “but we want to work collaboratively with the Development Corporation and other Wilkinsburg leaders to identify other needs that Milestone can look to address to help support a wonderful community.”
Wood expressed that Milestone is happy to provide this support, and to grow along with the community of Wilkinsburg.
“It’s exciting to see how Wilkinsburg is growing and changing and reinventing itself,” Wood said. “There’s the revitalization in the business district, there’s the new renovation of the railroad station, there’s just exciting things going on, and I think that Milestone is happy to be here as part of that.”
Coughlen added that he invites Wilkinsburg residents to share and communicate with Milestone to help them meet the needs of the community,
“As we continue to ebb and flow as an agency, I invite the community to join us in that journey and assist us,” Coughlen said. “Because their voice is the most powerful and most important.”
For more information, visit Milestone’s website, www.MilestonePA.org, or check them out on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/MilestonePA.