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Bootheel Counseling turns 30

Monday, January 23, 2006

(Photo)
Kyle Schott, MA clinical therapist at Bootheel Counseling, provides a therapy session.
SIKESTON -- Long gone are the days of lying on a couch and spilling your deepest darkest secrets while being questioned and evaluated by a psychiatrist.

These days mental health services are more diverse and more widely accepted by society. Just ask the staff at Bootheel Counseling Services in Sikeston.

"The number of people helping themselves is increasing," said Cheryl Jones, licensed clinical social worker and community psychiatric rehabilitation director at Bootheel Counseling.

Jones credited celebrities like Brooke Shields for speaking up about their illnesses. In 2005, Shields publicly announced her bout with postpartum depression after giving birth to her daughter.

"People are realizing, 'Even though I have a successful life and can function, it's not a bad thing to improve my mental health,'" Jones said.

Earlier this month, Bootheel Counseling Services, a private, not-for-profit organization, marked 30 years of services to residents in its four-county service area of Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi and Stoddard.

In any given year the staff at Bootheel Counseling will see 2,500 identified clients. An identified client doesn't include family members who may seek services with a loved one or callers who utilize the crisis services.

Bootheel Counseling has grown from a staff of four when it opened Jan. 2, 1976, to the 80 employees it has today at its Sikeston location, 760 Plantation Blvd., and the new branch office, 1017 Highway 25 North, in Bloomfield just built last year.

Today people utilize Bootheel Counseling Services for various reasons -- ranging from marital problems to a referral from a business about an employee with substance abuse or parent/child for school threats to the serious mental illnesses like bipolar disease and schizophrenia.

"Depression is still the common cold of mental illnesses," said Bootheel Counseling Executive Director Ron Steinmetz. "Depression, anxiety and stress are overlying problems."

Bootheel Counseling provides outpatient treatment services for a wide range of problems, rehabilitation services for adults with psychiatric disabilities, early screening and intervention services with "at risk" children, mental health promotion and education services for the community at large.

"Crisis services are a big part of what we do. Years ago, someone would walk in with a crisis, but the counselor would be with other clients and couldn't see them. Now we have staff dedicated to that," Steinmetz said.

The center providers crisis services 24 hours, seven days a week through its crisis line (1-800-356-5395). Bootheel Counseling shares crisis line duties with other mental health centers, Steinmetz said.

Even though more people are getting help for their problems, a lot of times they don't know about the services offered by Bootheel Counseling until they actually need the service, said Jones, who's been working at Bootheel Counseling for 21 years. Most cases are referrals from other agencies, she said.

What makes Bootheel Counseling stand out from other mental health centers is its collaboration with other agencies, Jones said.

"For example, if a child is involved, we may visit schools, juvenile office, family services and case managers," Jones said. "And it's not just one person. We're all pulling together."

Early intervention with clients has also played a major role in enabling more people today to continue working and living with their families as opposed to staying long periods in a hospital, Steinmetz said.

And perhaps a misconception about mental health services is the level of anxiety clients have about coming to the services. "Sometimes people think, 'My life situation is so bad and embarrassing, they'll never believe my life,'" said Taryn LeGrand-Lovett, clinical director at Bootheel Counseling for 16 years. "But they don't shock us. They don't realize other people have gone through it."

Another misconception is the stigma associated with seeing a counselor or therapist. "People think they're crazy (if they need help) or they should be able to handle the situation themselves. They don't think it's OK to have help," Jones said.

As Steinmetz pointed out, "You can have any type of mental problem. It doesn't have to be a serious debilitating mental illness."

For example one of the services Bootheel Counseling provides is stress reduction techniques, Steinmetz said.

Future goals of Bootheel Counseling include increasing outreach services, particularly special services for the elderly, providing residential programs for seriously mentally ill and continuing to work toward additional grants and funding sources, Steinmetz noted.

Jones credited Steinmetz, who's been with Bootheel Counseling since day one, for the Center successfully serving area residents over the years.

"The success is really because of Ron's leadership," Jones said. "He's been very consistent and taught us all how to provide the best services."

For more information about Bootheel Counseling and its services, visit www.bootheelcounseling.com.