The sign on the door of Valley Hope Counseling has a bright sun rising over the mountains and says, "Hope in time of uncertainty… Healing in times of stress".
"There are barriers to accessing mental health counseling when it's needed," says Ginny Harris, LPC and Executive Director of Valley Hope Counseling. "The two biggest are the stigma of mental health and the accessibility based on cost. Our mission is to provide access to mental health services for all. We work on reducing the stigma every day. And we charge a sliding scale fee, based on income and family size, to make the cost less and our services more accessible."
Their sliding scale fee for mental health counseling starts at $16 per hour. "Without annual funding from Augusta Health, our minimum fee would have to double; $32 per hour charge would prevent a large group of people who need care from being able to afford it. Simply put, without the support from Augusta Health, we could not do what we do."
What they do is work with clients to address a wide range of mental health and emotional stress issues: Anxiety, Depression, Domestic Violence, Social and Emotional Issues, Sexual Abuse and Recovery, Substance Abuse and Addictions, Job Stress, Life Transitions, Grief and a host of other issues. They also work with Valley Community Services Board to provide referrals for the severely mentally ill, and those who need medication and case management. There's sometimes a long wait for outpatient services at VCSB, though, so referrals go both ways.
"We work hard not to have a wait list," says Harris. "We understand that it's very difficult for people to just make the first call to set up an appointment. So when they do call, we want to be able to see them within a week or two, if possible."
"Often life snowballs, and one thing leads to another and people feel lost as issues begin to layer on top of each other," adds Harris. "Being unemployed is likely to cause depression, and being depressed then makes it more difficult to find or keep a job. Mental health issues and chronic health issues also go hand-in-hand. Those with a chronic disease, such as diabetes or heart disease, are at a higher risk for anxiety or depression. And those with anxiety or depression often have difficulty managing a chronic disease."
"The other side, though, is that people can be so very resilient," she continues. "They just need someone to help them along the way. They are thirsty for support or validation of their abilities. And when you watch them bloom, it's magical."
Valley Hope Counseling works with clients of all ages, races, genders, religions and income levels. It works with those who have insurance, those who don't, and those who have such high deductibles they are concerned they can't afford mental health counseling. They work with everyone because difficult situations and stressful times are a part of every life.
"Our demand increases every year," says Harris. "And the more people we see, the more funding we need. We are so grateful to Augusta Health for providing strategic funding each year which allows us to keep our fees low, and access to mental health services available to such a large group in our community. They are an essential partner to the services we provide."
To contact Valley Hope Counseling and learn about their programs and services, call them at (540) 941-8933 or visit www.valleyhopecc.org. To learn more about Augusta Health's Community Outreach programs, call (540) 332-4190 or visit https://www.augustahealth.com/community-outreach.