Mental health director hopes to
‘continue good work’
Jan. 15, 2014
Anna Jeffries Sentinel Reporter
Published in The Advocate
Itʼs been about two months since Penny Sitler moved into her
new office at Mental Health America of Licking County.
Although sheʼs still learning the ropes, the organizationʼs new
executive director said she is thrilled to be working close to her
Newark home again.
“I missed being engaging in Licking County,” Sitler said. “I have
been in this community for so long.”
Sitler was thrilled when she found out she had been chosen to
replace longtime MHA director Paddy Kutz. She began her new
role after Kutzʼs retirement celebration Nov. 16.
Although she knew she had big shoes to fill, Sitler said sheʼs felt
welcomed by the organizationʼs volunteers and clients as well as
the organizations it partners with.
“We will obviously miss Paddy, but they seem to have confidence
in me,” she said. “Itʼs been really great.”
One of her goals is to carry on Kutzʼs legacy of raising
awareness and reducing stigma.
“Weʼve got to continue the good work,” she said. “Weʼve got to
keep people thinking about their mental health.”
A native of Massachusetts, Sitler moved to Perrysburg, Ohio,
when she was 8. After graduating from Wittenburg University with
degrees in English and political science, she got a job as a
systems engineer for IBM.
After moving to Newark in 1982, she started her own business
doing computer systems consulting for Licking County Job and
Family Services, while raising her children.
When her kids got older, she started working for The Evans
Foundation then later was hired by Offinger Management in Zanesville.
The for-profit company specializes in association management,
which allows nonprofit groups to share services. At the company,
Sitler assisted several organization with office management,
budgeting, fundraising and event planning.
Her position gave her a good understanding of what it takes to run
a successful, efficient nonprofit.
“The management piece is really what I bring to the table,” she
After Sitler found out Kutz, MHAʼs director for 32 years, had
announced her retirement, she decided to apply for the position.
The job would allow her to be more involved in Newark, which she
missed while commuting to Zanesville. She was also attracted to
the mission of the organization.
“MHA has a great reputation,” she said. “I knew about their good
Although MHA doesnʼt provide treatment, its staff
collaborates with other organizations to get clients what they
need. MHA offers services such as support groups for
parents and those dealing with grief or mental illness, the
YES Club, the Prevent Assault and Violence Education
program and Compeer.
Staff members speak at local schools and in the community
to educate the public about good mental health and mental
Mental illnesses affect almost every family and people need to
understand that they are diseases, Sitler said.
“(Those with mental illness),they need help just like someone with
a more recognizable condition, like heart disease,” she said.
One of Sitlerʼs main goals it to teach children and adults that
it is okay to reach out and ask for help if they are struggling.
“Secrets are not a good thing, itʼs not something you need to
hide,” she said. “Itʼs okay to talk to people if you have a problem.”
MHA can help people find support and a place to turn to, Sitler
“Itʼs tough if you donʼt have a great support system,” she said.
“We want people to know they are not alone.”