Clay Counseling offers mental health services

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By Dianne Anderson

The back-to-back disasters with COVID-19, the economy, the cost of housing are all intertwined with a larger conversation that hasn’t stopped at Clay Counseling Solutions – the deep-rooted systemic racial inequality that impedes access to services.

Even though the issue of equity is moving in some circles, Dr. April Clay said mental health and racial equity have been front and center at their agency for many years.

“We’re now hearing more common use of terminology, microaggressions, anti-racism practices and trying to understand fairness, but that’s nothing new to us as an agency,” said Clay, CEO of Clay Counseling. Solutions.

Clay Counseling Solutions offers support for therapists, including staff training, workshops and mental health assistance in the community. Currently, their program contracts with local schools and clinicians to provide therapy to children and adolescents in San Bernardino and parts of Riverside County.

By training both large companies and small organisations, she said the real change in the system is not in the one-day workshops, but must start with the people in charge of the structures of the system.

“We are talking about human change, behavior change. It’s a heavier lift, if you will, because we want it to be permanent,” she said.

Lately, she’s seen larger corporations join her in publicly acknowledging their support for anti-racist practices. But she said smaller systems need to follow a similar standard for the populations they serve, starting with their partnerships.

“We invite people to question their own biases, where you worship, where you give, who you donate to. [It’s] who you partner with and how you spend your resources,” she said.

Keeping services local is another goal of his agency. She said local mental health providers have a better understanding of what their own grassroots community needs. Her office is not close to every school or location they serve, but she does her best to hire in the area.

“We do our best to bring people to the table to work with us who also live in these areas. Our services might stop, but they [the counselors] will still be there. It’s still their community,” she said.

She worries that agencies will continue to attract mental health providers from other counties and states to the interior region to open conversations about equity. Some providers come a long way to talk about mental health and then leave.

“We have large mental health organizations that reside in the Inland Empire, but their headquarters are elsewhere. Why don’t we use organizations headquartered here? ” she says. “It’s not the same as working with the people on the ground who are going to stay here [afterward].

Racial equity and mental health also means bringing resources to those who need them most. She said the local zone concept could be applied to the labor industry, giving workers at lower pay scales a way to move up the ladder to get the first chance at local jobs.

“Someone working as a janitor in social services, for example, might be offered an advanced degree so they can progress,” she said. “Why don’t we give them the opportunity to earn a living wage on $7 a gallon gas? We should cultivate ours.

More money in an uncontrollable inflationary environment could alleviate some mental health issues. She sees the impact of economic challenges on the clients of her office.

Clay, who has worked with schools in the Inland Empire since 2006, said her agency has grown and much of what she offers is volunteer-based, such as public speaking and other projects to keep in touch with the community.

Dr. Clay’s foundation was one of 16 nonprofit groups in the first round of $740,000 in grants awarded earlier this year by the IE Black Equity Fund

She said the recent grant helps the outreach arm of their foundation and will be a big help on the resource side.

Even though the community is showing great resilience despite COVID-19 and racial inequalities, she said people were nervous and on edge.

“As a people our levels of anxiety are higher, we see more people struggling with depression, having been socially isolated for two years. [Being] removed from some of their natural coping mechanisms had an impact,” she said.

After two years of isolation, teenagers and young adults are back in schools and universities, and they are also struggling to adjust into adulthood. She sees more cases of depression and anxiety in young adults.

Her organization also provides anger management and family counseling services to reach people where they are. She said they accept several forms of insurance and invite the community to call the office if they need help.

“One of the things I like to do is raise awareness and understanding, the goal is to come away with a bag of tools to help them. We’re not really trying to stay with us forever. We’re trying to do them well and by themselves.

For more information see https://www.claycounselingsolutions.com/

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