The Counseling Place, a local mental health center, is seeking to tackle growing mental health needs while finding more funding, according to an April 17 Richardson City Council meeting.

The city-affiliated nonprofit, which is located at 375 Municipal Drive, offers victim advocacy and counseling, a juvenile first offender program, individual counseling and support for first responders, and mental health education and enrichment courses for teenagers.

Heading into the summer, Deborah Dobbs, executive director of The Counseling Place, said the center is seeking to expand its Project Positive program, which provides stress-coping coaching and the development of positive habits for youths, to the Richardson ISD community, in particular for middle schoolers. She said the center has conducted initial discussions with Superintendent Tabitha Branum and members of the RISD board, exploring how it can best support students, families and staff without duplicating or disrupting existing services. More information about applying the program in the district will be made available at a later time.

Dobbs said being able to deal with mental health concerns is a big factor in a person’s overall health, adding meeting teens' needs is essential as their brains are developing and need to learn coping skills and habits.

“Mental health is the strongest armor against suicide, domestic violence and substance abuse,” she said. “It determines how we respond to challenges, setbacks, and how we celebrate successes.”

Since the start of the pandemic, The Counseling Place officials said they have grown more concerned about not being able to face the mental health challenges among Richardson residents.

Over the last three years, the center has seen an increase in clients struggling with anxiety, depression, substance use and suicidal ideation, according to Director of Development Cindy Shafer. Statewide, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for ages 10-24, according to the Suicide & Crisis Center of North Texas. Adding to the challenges in providing strong support is a scarcity of affordable mental health services. Since the pandemic, the center has had to eliminate a six-person team of contract counselors. Last year, Shafer said the center turned away 151 people with at least 100 being turned away due to a lack of funding.

Shafer said the nonprofit's goal is to hire two more full-time employees, which are estimated to annually cost $144,000 each but would be able to provide 960 sessions. According to an estimate, the cost to serve 100 individuals would equate to $240,000 with the center recommending an average of 16 sessions per client at $150 each session for adequate care.

Funding for the facility comes from the city of Richardson as well as Victims' Services Grants at the federal and state levels. These grants are designed to provide funds to programs that address the “unmet needs of victims of crime,” according to state officials.

“Right now, we have the reputation of, ‘They don't have openings, so I can't go there,’” Shafer said. “We don't want that reputation. We want to be able to continue to increase staffing so that we can meet [everyone’s] needs so that they aren't going somewhere else.”

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