in collaboration with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Provide free or affordable counseling

File under: mental health care, health

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From: Patrice M., Homewood, IL

As a clinical social worker, I often see people who may be overwhelmed with managing emotional, psychological, family or work stresses that result in their inability to "get ahead." These are folks who are dealing with multiple stressors and have few supports. And, many people who are willing to go to counseling to get the support they need to deal with these stressors, cannot afford to go to counseling. There really is no such thing as free counseling, as far as I see, and the waiting list to receive assistance through a community mental health center is months long.

When I'm trying to find support for someone who needs immediate assistance (and cannot pay the full price of counseling out of pocket), I'm often advised to tell that person to go to the emergency room where they can get immediate psychiatric care. But this is not for ongoing care and support. Many folks with health insurance still do not want to pay a $40 copay a week, and those with public aid are lucky to find a counselor who would accept public aid, as counselors themselves cannot afford to wait months to get reimbursed by state.

Having counseling available to children and teens at school, would also be nice, as personal and family stressors often add an unnecessary distraction that results in poor performance and grades in school. What about a counseling center at each school -- available to kids and their families? Or a community mental health center in every town? Maybe having better access to services, would reduce stigma as well.


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