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Harrisonburg on track to better address mental, behavioral health with ARPA fund distribution

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Harrisonburg City Council will provide funding to support six organizations meeting mental health needs thanks to a fund created by the City with American Rescue Plan Act allocations.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, City Council recognized there were more mental health needs in Harrisonburg.

The Mental Health Fund was approved by City Council in December to support organizations providing mental and behavioral health services with an emphasis on services to low-income, underserved, uninsured or underinsured individuals and families.

During a public engagement session designed to help the City find the best use for ARPA funds, the need to address issues related to mental and behavioral health and substance abuse was identified as a top priority for members of the public.

City Council agreed with the public and dedicated $400,000 to address the need. Four applications were received, and six were chosen by a designated committee to receive funding.

“Creating a City for All, like we are doing here in Harrisonburg, requires us to ensure that all members of our community feel safe, valued and have abundant opportunity,” said Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed. “The work these six organizations will do in our community is going to make Harrisonburg a better place for all who call it home and ensure that people who need aid navigating mental and behavioral health challenges receive that support and know we care about their wellbeing. I am glad to know the ARPA Mental Health Fund will make that a possibility.”

Harrisonburg Mental Health Fund recipients

Boys & Girls Club of Harrisonburg and Rockingham – $123,574

  • The Advancing Mental Health Equity through Out-of-School Time Programming project will fund a new, full-time mental health advocate for BGCHR City Clubs to provide support for existing staff, group programming for approximately 500 youth and individual support for youth and their families. The mental health advocate will help staff facilitate existing group programming, supplement club curricula to promote positive social emotional development and address identified needs, provide individualized services to participants who exhibit signs of poor mental health and refer youth and their families to community- based support services. Staff capacity to support youth mental health will be bolstered by a partnership with Harrisonburg City Public Schools.

Strength in Peers – $111,877

  • The Back on Track Recovery Program project will provide full funding for a peer recovery specialist position and partial funding for a case manager and a resident in counseling. The PRS will work with the case manager and resident in counseling to provide mental health support and other services for homeless individuals and individuals facing housing insecurity. Support and services will include case management, individual and group therapy, housing application support, psychiatry and behavioral health assessments.

Gemeinschaft Home – $69,813

  • The Gemeinschaft Home Behavioral and Mental Health Services ARPA project will expand the community’s capacity to respond effectively to the behavioral health needs of low-income, underserved, criminal justice-involved individuals who have a mental or behavioral health disorder or co-occurring mental and behavioral health disorder by expanding access to one-on-one counseling sessions and increasing the number of classes/hours offered of evidence-based curricula to address substance use disorder and co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders.

The Collins Center – $40,569

  • The Sustainable Staffing for Comprehensive Mental Health Crisis-Intervention and Long-Term Therapy Services for City of Harrisonburg Primary and Secondary Victims of Sexual Harm project will fund a bilingual trauma-informed counselor position at the Collins Center and raise base salaries for the existing clinical coordinator/therapist and therapist-in-residence positions to sustainably retain the existing clinical staff. All Collins Center services are free to both primary and secondary victims of sexual harm to allow them to begin embracing resilience, wellbeing and safety.

First Step: A Response to Domestic Violence – $34,167

  • The Bilingual Domestic Violence Counseling Services project will fund a bilingual domestic violence counselor position and promote the services available to survivors of domestic violence. While receiving treatment from the bilingual domestic violence counselor, the survivor will also be offered advocacy services from First Step Advocate staff members to assist them in accessing other community resources and benefits, including but not limited to Medicaid.

Community Counseling Center – $20,000

  • The Sliding Scale Program project will cover the cost of wages for counselors seeing clients with problems such as depression, anxiety, anger, conflict in the family and/or parenting concerns who utilize the Community Counseling Center’s sliding scale. The sliding scale allows those who do not have or cannot afford to use healthcare insurance to receive treatment at a cost equal to a percentage of their income. Session costs will generally range from $25 to $100 per session.

More information about the City’s ARPA-funded projects is available at https://harrisonburgva.gov/ARPA.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.