Founder & Special Projects Consultant

Patricia Cluss, Ph.D., is the Director of STANDING FIRM. Retired from her faculty position in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, she continues her professional work as a licensed psychologist and consultant for regional nonprofit and health-related organizations. At Pitt, she engaged in research and program development in partner violence, smoking cessation for special populations, and pediatric obesity and published a number of articles about partner violence in academic journals. Dr. Cluss has been an expert member of the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Intimate Partner Violence Homicide Review Team and a consultant for a PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency-funded research project at the University of Pittsburgh that is describing the methodology and impact of batterer intervention programs in the region. Dr. Cluss is a consultant at the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh and directs the STANDING FIRM initiative there.

You can reach Patricia at: or 412-894-4568


Elizabeth Lewis, M.Ed. is the Director of STANDING FIRM. Beth brings to STANDING FIRM in-depth leadership experience in the non-profit sector including major organizational development and program direction at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and consulting roles with the Magee Women’s Research Institute and Foundation. After starting her career in victim advocacy and service delivery design for rape and child sexual abuse response systems, she joined the for-profit arena in the Employee Assistance field, implementing multinational corporate EAP’s and local employer programs across western PA. Beth is a member of the Ethics Committee as Children’s Hospital and has published articles and presented at national conferences on Patient and Family-centered Care.

You can reach Beth at: or 412-894-4571

Employer Services Coordinator

Karen L. Merrick, LSW, ACSW, is the Employer Services Coordinator for STANDING FIRM. Karen has more than 25 years of experience in the field of employee assistance, providing clinical counseling services and account management. Her skills and expertise are in the areas of management consultation and training with emphases on developing relationships, promoting resilience, and managing organizational change. Karen was previously a senior account manager with Life Solutions, UPMC’s employee assistance program. As the UPMC Team Coordinator, she led a team that provided EAP account management services to all UPMC hospitals/business units, including presenting trainings/workshops to leaders and managers on intimate partner violence.

You can reach Karen at: or 412-894-4569

Program Associate

Catherine Gutowski is the Program Associate at STANDING FIRM. She has extensive experience in operational and program support within the education, technology and not for profit sectors, both in the United States and overseas. Outside of STANDING FIRM, Catherine volunteers regularly with the American Red Cross as a Disaster Services Caseworker, as well as for her local school PTA as Communications Coordinator.

You can reach Catherine at: or 412-894-4568