A free mental health counseling center opens in Charlotte. These are the programs offered

There’s a new initiative to get mental health services for those who may not otherwise be able to access services in Mecklenburg County.

Mental Health America of Central Carolinas opened a free counseling center in east Charlotte.

Renovations at the counseling center have been underway for months. It was unveiled on Jan. 17 at 3701 Latrobe Drive. The funding for the new center was an investment from American Rescue Plan Act funds distributed to Mecklenburg County.

“It’s a great location for a service like this being here in Grier Heights,” said Kathy Rogers, MHA executive director.

Mental Health America of Central Carolinas in Charlotte services Mecklenburg County and Cabarrus County residents who are uninsured or unemployed.
Mental Health America of Central Carolinas in Charlotte services Mecklenburg County and Cabarrus County residents who are uninsured or unemployed.

The center’s mission is to offer free counseling to communities that otherwise may not have access to mental health support.

“It’s exciting to see the capacity that’s being built in the community to address mental health,” Rodgers said.

“Sometimes you need that (counseling), someone who doesn’t know you so you can just open up,” said Megan Bryant, the counseling center’s clinical director. “Just being able to provide that clinical support, whether it’s just coping strategies that you can use. You don’t have to come up with a routine. You can come every six months.”

Mecklenburg County and Cabarrus County residents who are unemployed, uninsured, or unable to afford services, may be eligible for short-term support at no cost. There is a $10 administration fee.

Charlotte facility supports adults, youths

Adults and youths ages 8 years old and up can receive up to six sessions with a licensed mental health professional.

Rogers said they had several clients aligned with counselors even before the center opened. Right now, they’re hoping to have no more than eight clients per day who will be split between student counselors from Johnson C. Smith University and UNC Charlotte graduate programs.

“Not only do we want to serve marginalized communities, but how can we help increase the pipeline in clinicians of color? That’s why it’s so important to partner with Johnson C. Smith and UNCC as well,” Rogers said. “We think it’s a great opportunity for young people who want this to be their career to get that hands-on experience and also help the community at the same time.”

The goal is to have two from each university every school year.

“It is rewarding,” said student counselor Karrisa Clinkscales. “As someone who would’ve liked to have had that at my age, it’s kind of like I’m giving back to what I really wish I would have had.”

Rogers and Bryant said they are still working on summer staffing but plan to keep the center open during that time.

More than mental health services

Not only is the center staff providing free counseling, but other resources as well.

“When an individual comes in, we want to know what other needs they have. We know the social determinants of health impact our mental health,” said Rogers. “If we’re food insecure or have housing issues or employment needs, Rebekah (the center’s mental health navigator) is looking at all of that and how she can refer them to other resources.”

The center is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for in-person or virtual sessions.

For more information about eligibility and program options, those interested can contact Mental Health America of Central Carolinas at 704-899-1839.