GLOUCESTER — Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken and Public Health Director Karin Carroll are pleased to announce that the Gloucester Health Department has launched a new, free program to help members of the public navigate the mental health care system.
The Gloucester Health Department has contracted with Children’s Friend and Family Services, a division of the Justice Resource Institute, to offer free access to a dedicated representative for community members to contact for help when seeking mental health care. Assistance is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 781-540-3329.
The new service is part of an ongoing project the Gloucester Health Department has been working on since it was first awarded funding to address early childhood trauma and access to mental health services in 2017 by the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation. Since then, the foundation has cumulatively awarded the department approximately $330,000 in grants to continue its research and implement a resource to assist locals in accessing mental health care.
The Tower Foundation works alongside nonprofit organizations and community groups to support young people with intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, mental health issues and substance use disorders.
“This is a very challenging time for so many of us. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health concerns for many people. This resource will be invaluable moving forward for our community,” Mayor Romeo Theken said. “I have and will continue to advocate for ways to ease access to mental health care. Working together with our Health Department I’m proud that we can offer this resource. It will ensure our residents have access to this care which is critical, and we encourage anyone who needs help navigating the mental health care system to utilize this free resource.”
By researching focus groups from throughout the area, members of the Gloucester Health Department found that navigating insurance, waitlists, availability, phone calls and stigma all posed barriers for those seeking mental health care. As a result of their findings, the department launched the initiative to provide a liaison for members of the public struggling with those obstacles to care.
The program is open to anyone from Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Essex, Ipswich, Beverly or Danvers seeking support navigating the mental health system.
“As a result of a comprehensive evaluation of access to mental health services in the region, we were able to identify a gap in services for folks who were attempting to access clinicians,” said Amy Epstein, Regional Director of Prevention. “Navigating insurance, waitlists, availability, phone calls, and stigma were barriers to service that stood out and were echoed by almost all who were asked. This new resource will help to address these barriers and allow more people to access the services they need.”
For additional information about the Health Department’s new mental health access initiative, contact Epstein at 978-325-5272.