Clay Counseling Offers Mental Health Services
By Dianne Anderson
Back-to-back disasters with COVID-19, the economy, the cost of housing are all closely connected to a bigger conversation that hasn’t stopped at Clay Counseling Solutions – the deep rooted systemic racial inequality that prevents access to services.
Even as the equity issue is evolving in some circles, Dr. April Clay said mental health and race equity have been the main focus of their agency for many years.
“We’re now hearing more common use of terminology, microaggressions, anti-racist practices, and trying to understand equity, but this is not new for us as an agency,” said Clay, CEO at Clay Counseling Solutions.
Clay Counseling Solutions provides support for therapists, including staff training, workshops and mental health help in the community. Currently, their program contracts with local schools, and clinicians to provide therapy to children and teens throughout San Bernardino and parts of Riverside County.
In training both large corporations and smaller organizations, she said the real change in the system is not in the one-day workshops, but must begin with the people in charge of system structures.
“We’re talking human change, behavioral change. That’s a heavier lift, if you will, because we want it to be permanent,” she said.
Lately, she sees larger corporations coming on board to publicly acknowledge 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 folks to challenge 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 for her agency. She said local mental health providers have a better understanding of what’s needed in their own grassroots community. Her office isn’t close to every school or location that they serve, but she makes every effort to hire from the local area.
“We try our best to bring folks to the table to work with us that live in those areas as well. Our services might stop, but they [the counselors] are still going to be there. It’s still their community,” she said.
She is concerned that agencies continue to pull mental health providers from other counties and states to the Inland area to open equity conversations. Some providers fly in from far away to talk about mental health, and then they leave.
“We have big mental health organizations that reside in the Inland Empire, but their headquarters are elsewhere. Why aren’t we using organizations that have headquarters here?” she said. “It’s not the same as working with the people on the ground and are going to stay here [afterward].
Race equity and mental health also mean bringing resources to those most in need. She said the local area concept could be applied to the work industry, giving workers at lower pay scales a way up the ladder to get the first chance at local jobs.
“Someone working as a janitor in social services, for instance, could be offered a higher degree so they can move up,” she said. “Why aren’t we giving them an opportunity to earn a livable wage with gas at $7 a gallon? We should be growing our own.”
More money in an out of control inflationary environment could alleviate some mental health issues. She sees the impact of economic challenges on clients at her office.
Clay, who has worked with Inland Empire schools since 2006, said her agency has grown, and much of what they offer is volunteer-based, such as public speaking engagements and other projects to stay connected to 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 their foundation arm of outreach, and will be a big help on the resource side.
Even though the community is showing great resilience despite COVID-19 and racial inequality, she said that people are on edge, and nerves are frayed.
“As a people, our anxiety rates are higher, we’re seeing more people dealing with depression, having been in social isolation for two years. [Being] removed from some of their natural coping mechanisms have had an impact,” she said.
After two years of isolation, teens and young adults are back to schools and universities, and they are also struggling to make adjustments to adulthood. She is seeing 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 at. She said they accept several forms of insurance and is inviting the community to call the office if they need help.
“One of the things I like to do is increase awareness and understanding, the goal is to walk away with a tool bag to help them. We’re not really trying to keep with us forever. We’re trying to get them well and on their own.”
For more information, see https://www.claycounselingsolutions.com/