United Way Focused Grant Helps Berks Counseling Center Expand Youth Mental Health Services

With the pandemic sparking greater mental and emotional struggles for youth, United Way of Berks County awarded a Focused Grant to Berks Counseling Center (BCC) to support additional resources to address this growing issue.

The grant allowed BCC to expand staff and establish an Intensive Outpatient Program to include health and wellness activities with a focus on family engagement in treatment, providing the ability to serve more youth.

Initially, the agency anticipated seeing 50 clients in the first year of the grant; they have already served over 110 children and adolescents in less than 10 months.

From 2019 to 2021, BCC saw a 48% increase in treating children, and the need continues to increase with the lingering impact of the pandemic. They are seeing many more instances of depression and anxiety, as well as higher levels of experimentation with substances, which often leads to other issues.

United Way’s grant helps BCC tackle very real needs. Evelyn Mendoza, a BCC mental health counselor, shares how one middle-school aged youth received help: “A young teen was dealing with extreme anxiety, to the point of not being able to attend school. Her parents were not aware of resources, and they were referred to us. We identified the triggers of the teen’s anxiety, and by working through therapy, she improved 90% without any medications. She has now been discharged, and our team has followed-up with the family to check that coping skills continue to be used at home and school. While she doesn’t need therapy at this point, she understands we are here for her.”

BCC provides a bright, comfortable and welcoming space designed specifically for children, adolescents and families. The grant supports two new staff members who focus on community outreach and incorporate more health and wellness components to therapies. Additional bilingual youth counselors are also joining the team. Future plans include expanding support and resources for adolescent substance abuse disorders.

BCC’s Family Center will continue to provide individual and family counseling for children, school-based outpatient counseling, creative play therapy, and individual, group and family counseling for adolescents, and with the support of United Way, the agency is now positioned to serve more clients in new ways as needs expand and numbers rise.