Partnership allows for free mental health counseling

Published 9:07 pm Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Free mental health counseling is now available for eligible low- to moderate-income residents in Lake Charles through a partnership with the city and Lake Charles Memorial Health System.

Mayor Nic Hunter and Dr. Dale Archer, a Lake Area psychiatrist with more than 30 years of experience, announced the behavioral health services program Tuesday. It is being funded through a $300,000 grant the city received as part of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The program expires at the end of December 2022.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the landfall of Hurricanes Laura and Delta last year, the February winter storm and the May flood have all contributed to increased stress levels for residents citywide, Archer said. These hardships have also made affording mental health care even more challenging.

“I’ve never seen a mental health need greater than what the community is facing right now,” he said. “(The program) came at really just a crucial time for these individuals trying to get help.”

Those who qualify for the program will be scheduled for a counseling session and will be evaluated, Archer said. Health officials will then determine what level of care is required.

Archer said the program is open to individuals, families and children. He said he is encouraged that mental health problems are being recognized as a serious situation that shouldn’t be ignored.

“If an individual is suffering, they need to get help, just like any other medical problem,” he said. “I hope this is showing that if we can get people help, it helps their physical health, and it makes the community stronger.”

Hunter said the city has received just over $1 million in CARES Act funding, with some of it being spent on mortgage and rental assistance, along with the small business stabilization fund. However, the city also recognized the need for additional mental health services.

“We have all had a lot of stress over the last year and half,” Hunter said. “We want to try and offer some opportunity for Lake Charles citizens to sit down and visit with someone about that. We’ve got to do more as a society to erase the stigma of mental health, and we are willing to do that as a city.”

The program will be carried out at Lake Charles Memorial Health System’s Behavioral Health Clinic, 2829 Fourth Ave., Suite 150.

To apply, call Lake Charles Memorial Health System at 480-7801.