Merlene Davis: Family Counseling Service struggling to keep its doors open

Herald-Leader columnistJuly 14, 2014 

  • WAYS TO HELP

    The Family Counseling Service needs to raise at least $30,000 to continue to serve clients in need of affordable mental health care. The non-profit could also use free or affordable office space and is willing to partner with a private organization. If you can help, send donations to Family Counseling Service, 2432 Regency Road, Suite 120, Lexington, Ky. 40503. Or donations can be made on the agency's website, Familycounselingky.org. For more information, call (859) 233-0033.

While it has increasingly become a familiar story, news of yet another valued non-profit losing its funding still packs a surprising wallop.

The Family Counseling Service, which was founded in 1900 by then Lexington Mayor H.T. Duncan to "investigate and aid distressed children and families in the community," may have to close its doors because the agency has no money.

That means some 30 to 40 people seen each week will have to find another resource for the clinical and therapeutic services they have been receiving on a sliding-fee scale.

The agency lost about $30,000 it was expecting from the United Way of the Bluegrass, and it didn't receive funding it had applied for from the Urban County Government, said Mendy Daniels, executive director of FCS.

"We are not able to survive that," she said. "We were running on bare bones as it was. The board said anything short of a miracle, we will have to close our doors."

Daniels has written a lot of grant applications, but even if the agency receives them, it won't be until this fall, "which will be too late," she said.

The best estimate is the agency has about two months to come up with the money, very inexpensive office space, or both.

"If we got both, we would be in good shape," Daniels said. "We could make it another year."

A year is a long time in the life of a man, woman or child who is in need of sessions on parenting, anger management, adolescent behavior problems, substance dependency, abuse, stress, depression or marriage counseling.

FCS is an outpatient mental health agency dedicated to providing affordable counseling and guidance to help people cope with the problems of life and improve the quality of their relationships.

And, because the clients can't afford to pay going prices for those services, the reduced fees can't keep the agency afloat.

"The people we are serving can't help us survive," Daniels said.

If FCS closes, the clients face a possible wait of two to three months to be seen elsewhere.

So how did the agency get into such a fix? David Cole, president of the FCS board, said it was a deadly combination of decisions made about five years ago coupled with an economy that has not fully recovered.

"We need to get the word out," he said. "This is a life safety net."

Cole said he worked in the community mental health system for 27 years before starting his own business. He still has compassion for people who seek help and for agencies that can affordably provide it.

"Our main goal is caring for the clients," Cole said. Even if the doors close, the agency still wants to find a way for its clients to continue receiving good, empathetic care.

FCS could partner with a private organization, he said. "We don't want to drag anyone down," he said. "We just want a way to get back on our feet and continue to serve the clients we serve."

FCS also serves as a "vast training ground," Cole said, for university students at the graduate level. As supervised interns, they receive the experience needed to go along with the theory they've been taught.

"We are one of the few places left to do practicums and to learn how to do therapy," Daniels said.

All of that will be plowed under if the agency doesn't find help soon. FCS is willing to consider anything "that will keep us open and we can protect the safety and dignity of our clients, because they deserve it," Cole said.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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