The Wellesley-based Human Relations Service (HRS), the independent nonprofit outfit that provides mental health services to Wellesley, Weston and Wayland residents, has been awarded $80,000 in funding over two years by the Community Fund for Wellesley.
During the pandemic, HRS has been faced with “a tidal wave of people reaching out to us for health and support,” Executive Director Dr. Mark Kline told the Board of Health during its Oct. 7 meeting (starting at about the 25-minute mark).
“I would say we have a mental health crisis on our hands,” he said. “You don’t have to have a mental health disorder to have mental health symptoms under these circumstances.” Though those with mental health disorders now have an even greater need, he adds.
HRS has provided 5,000 hours of service each of the past two fiscal years, and could provide more if it had more staff capacity. This year the group switched over to all telehealth once COVID-19 emerged, and will have a challenge getting back to in-person treatment anytime soon. That’s especially unfortunate for younger clients, who have more difficulty with online counseling.
But the HRS facility dates from the 1860s and boasts an air ventilation system from that era, too. Kline sees the need for some $60,000 to $70,000 in upgrades on that front to allow a safe return, so the HRS team is on the lookout for possible funding for this, too. A tent behind the building now allows for some outdoor work, but winter beckons.
The fresh funding provided by the Community Fund for Wellesley will enable HRS to improve and expand its client intake and referral program. The team will grow its referral list, including specialists in areas such as transgender care, eating disorders, and culturally-specific matters. Another rising concern among clients is technology addiction escalated by COVID-19 protocols.
HRS could use even more money to expand its staff capacity. As Kline said, those who work for HRS know and love it, but it can be a tough sell for newcomers who are in high demand. He described doctoral program grads rolling out of school, putting up shingles and demanding $250 an hour to see clients. Finding a compensation formula to attract employees is a huge challenge, he said.
More from our interview with Dr. Kline in May, 2020.
Art sale to benefit HRS: Local artist Elizabeth Cohen is holding a studio sale at 56 Yarmouth Rd., this coming weekend, and all proceeds from sales on Saturday, Oct. 17, 10am-5pm, will go to HRS. The socially distanced sale will be outdoors.