San Antonio/ Health & Lifestyle
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Published on May 23, 2024
San Antonio YMCA Centers Pioneer in Free Counseling, Serving Over 620 Locals Amid Mental Health PushSource: YMCA of Greater San Antonio

In an effort to address the pressing issue of mental health, select YMCA locations in San Antonio have rolled out free counseling services aimed at a range of demographics, including children, seniors, veterans, and parents. The initiative, which has been operational since May of last year, has reportedly served over 620 locals to date.

The move to establish counseling services at the YMCA of Greater San Antonio was fueled by a hefty $1.3 million grant from the ARPA, specifically designated for addressing mental health concerns amongst teenagers. Following the initial success, the program expanded in January 2024 with additional financial support from Humana to include services for seniors and veterans, as per an article from the San Antonio Report.

Mental health, now the organization's second most critical community need, prompted the YMCA to venture beyond their traditional physical fitness offerings. San Antonio has the distinction of being the first YMCA in Texas to offer counseling services, setting a precedent and potentially paving the way for other YMCAs to follow.

Despite the fact that grant funding from ARPA and Humana is due to run dry by 2025 and 2026, respectively, the YMCA is determined to make their counseling department self-sufficient to ensure continuity of services. Kristine Gusman, the organization's counseling services director, highlighted that plans are underway to maintain these services, which isn't a simple task considering the nature of non-profit funding streams.

The YMCA's counselors, who range from licensed professionals to near-completers of licensure, offer a broad spectrum of services, including individual, group, couples, and family counseling. Kristine Gusman shared with the San Antonio Report the various settings where these services are accessible. "We know that the stigma is so [big] in our minority communities, we wanted to be sure all of us look like the communities we serve for a reason, so they can see themselves and be more comfortable with us," said Gusman.

As per accounts, social anxiety and difficulty in interpersonal communications are rampant issues among the youth in San Antonio. Tralishé Matthews-Truss, an army veteran and mental health counselor, told the San Antonio Report, "A lot of our youth are missing the support they need to move forward in life." Matthews-Truss's experience working with seniors revealed that loneliness and grief were their predominant struggles.

For those requiring more specialized psychiatric or behavioral health services, referrals are made to other San Antonio resources like the Center for Health Care Services, UT Health San Antonio, and the Behavioral Health Center.