This Crestline organization ensures that youth and their families have the mental health support they need to thrive.

Founded in 2012, Mountain Counseling & Training, Inc. (MCT) provides early mental health intervention, prevention and education to youth and their families. These programs provide a counseling and support outlet for youth in the mountain community who may otherwise not have access to mental health services. Compared to the rest of Southern California, MCT’s service area is underserved by mental health support infrastructure, the organization’s Program Coordinator, Eric Byers said.  MCT is the sole Medi-Cal provider of mental health services in the Rim of the World School District.

“Poverty and lack of services is a known challenge in our area, and if we didn’t exist then there’d be no one “up the hill” who could help our population,” Byers said.

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a great need, and the isolation of distance learning has had a detrimental impact on mental health, which has been especially true in the mountain communities, according to Byers. The organization serves youth from ages 4 through 21 and works to include families to circumvent negative impacts on a child’s potential.

It was a challenge to serve clients virtually, and currently the organization is offering hybrid services. However, meetings on camera are often not nearly as effective as in-person meetings, according to Byers. The organization returned to in-person services as soon as they were able. This includes working with youth one-on-one who are referred from their schools and providing immediate counseling without intake at their Wellness Center at the local high school.

“Just by being present by hosting wellness centers and taking part in the community, we’ve been able to normalize and destigmatize the practice of getting some help for your mental health,” Byers said. “By being visible, open, and honest, we’ve seen a big uptick in word-of-mouth referrals and community support.”

MCT is also working to reopen its parenting classes in the near future.

Recently, MCT received a grant from the Community Impact Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation for implementing DEI practices at their Wellness Center. While the organization’s main source of funding comes through county contracts, its Wellness Center and community events are supported by grant funding. MCT also depends on grants and donations for staff training and parent counseling certifications.

MCT also depends on volunteers to support its events. Individuals wishing to support the organization can visit their website and reach out for ways to volunteer.

By offering community events and increasing their visibility, MCT hopes to help the community understand that mental health services are not a luxury and to ease the fears of asking for assistance. Approximately 1 in 5 youth suffer from trauma, abuse, or mental illness, according to Byers. By providing refuge and respite to kids and families that need it most, they hope to be a place where those in need can get help with the troubles that come with growing up.

MCT works in close cooperation with many other local nonprofit organizations to tackle issues that affect mental health including drug and alcohol prevention. They also partner in programs that introduce youth to new hobbies to give them positive outlets. Overall, the organization wants to ensure that students work well in a school environment.

“We have seen a number of our kiddos graduate from our programs, improve their performance at school and in home life, and in a few cases we’ve even been lucky enough to see them as adult volunteers returning to pass on their guidance to the next generation,” Byers said.

More information: (909) 336-3330 or mountaincounseling.org

This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, June 2022.

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