BEDS is grateful for a new grant from the Raskob Foundation to support mental health services for our clients. BEDS and partner The Cognitive Clinic will use the grant funds to continue the Wellness Clinic offered at the Sacred Heart Parish emergency shelter.
Over 50% of people using BEDS’ shelters report mental illness and co-occurring substance abuse as what caused their homelessness. Many shelter users lack the resources needed to follow treatment plans and are resistant to treatment due to social stigma.
Eva Savickas, business manager of The Cognitive Clinic, said the clinic is fortunate to work with Governors State University interns and be able to offer counseling to clients who don't have insurance, have Medicaid or have a deductible that is too expensive to otherwise afford it. Staff with The Cognitive Clinic also help BEDS with client assessments, as a diagnosis of disability is often needed in order for clients to qualify for supportive housing.
Carla Carter, director of The Cognitive Clinic, said the original idea was to have a private place for clients to go to talk about whatever they wanted to. But what they found was some people preferred to sit down at a dinner table and talk in a casual setting rather than meet behind closed doors.
“We were doing counseling at dinner,” Carter said. “Somebody else might be there but since they were just having dinner and talking, they weren't doing counseling.”
This summer, interns with The Cognitive Clinic will attend Palos Methodist Church dinners from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays to talk with clients. Counseling services will be rotated through two sites during the next shelter season, both in the LaGrange area and in BEDS‘ south service area.
Carter knows that it is difficult for some clients to have hope when things seem to fall apart time after time after time. She said that good mental health, though is about learning how to cope with life's ups and downs.
“We're not case managers,” she said. “We're not going to find them housing. We're talking about how they can cope with [their situation].”
Counselors work to reach clients besides just offering a listening ear. For example, cards featuring inspirational notes of encouragement or quotes on one side and phone numbers to reach out to for help on the other side are placed inside sack lunches that the clients can take after a night at shelter.
This fall, the clinic will again offer a mental health 101 training for volunteers, designed to teach volunteers how to respond and what to do when interacting with clients. The volunteer trainings will be held on Oct. 9, Dec. 11, Feb. 12 and April 8.
“This is a group of people who are marginalized and often overlooked and often perceive themselves as a burden to others or angry about different things,” Carter said. “And if we can just sit down and make their day that much better, that is worthwhile.”
Featured in the photo are left to right: Eva Savickas, Cognitive Clinic; Mario Avila, BEDS Emergency Services Manager; Dr. Carla Carter, Cognitive Clinic Director; Flo Breithbart, Shelter Operations Manager.