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What We've Been Up To
TRUE Center Updates | November 2023
Our Child and Family Therapy program is designed to reduce traumatic stress symptoms in children exposed to trauma. Each referral is screened by our Mental Health Director to ensure that our service offerings are appropriate for the child and family’s needs. Once matched with an available volunteer therapist, the child and caregivers receive a clinical intake assessment and then weekly therapy sessions. We currently have 5 licensed clinicians who are generously donating 1 of their therapy slots each week to TRUE Center.
Since we started accepting referrals, We are excited to share that – since we started accepting referrals – we have successfully filled all of our therapy slots, effectively matching children/families with available volunteer therapists! Therefore, our volunteer clinicians are at full capacity. We have also served additional children with a clinical intake assessment.
TRUE Center has been actively engaged in training professionals, with an initial emphasis on mental health clinicians. These trainings aim to strengthen and hone licensed therapists' skills at recognizing, assessing, and treating disorders associated with traumatic stress in children, such as PTSD. In addition, we offer guidance on how to adapt one’s typical therapy practice to meet the needs of underserved populations. So far, TRUE Center has provided professional training to members of the DC Psychological Association and to clinicians at Montgomery County Counseling Center. 94% of survey respondents reported an increase in knowledge/skills in post-training surveys.
TRUE Center has also produced and distributed several pre-recorded videos aimed to increase awareness about trauma among DC-area community members. Topics have included recognizing traumatic stress symptoms in children and finding an appropriate mental health provider.
We’ve been busy! Our current Outreach goals are to get the word out about TRUE Center, earn trust in the DC community, explore options for physical space, and build partnerships for sustainability. We have met with community members, nonprofit and business leaders, clinicians, potential volunteers and board members, social media experts and fundraisers. For example, our Executive Director was invited to, and honored to speak at, an event to rededicate a building’s name in the honor of two community members who lost their lives to gun violence. We have also been in regular communication with My Sister’s Place DC, a shelter serving women and children who have experienced the trauma of domestic violence.
We truly appreciate the kindness, generosity, and willingness to partner that we have encountered in the various individuals and organizations with whom we have met. We all have at least one thing in common: a passion for the mission to increase access to trauma care for children.
In order to support these activities, TRUE Center made several investments in staffing.
Mental Health Director. In March, we were excited to hire a part-time Mental Health Director, Dr. Komal Sharma-Patel. Dr. Sharma-Patel developed the therapy program in preparation of opening its virtual doors. She receives and screens all referrals, matches families with an available therapist, and supervises each volunteer clinician that provides therapy. Dr. Sharma-Patel also offers caregivers a meeting to complete paperwork prior to the intake session to ensure that they have any questions answered.
Executive Director. In August, TRUE Center Co-Founder Dr. Renee DeBoard-Lucas transitioned from the Board to a part-time Executive Director position! Dr. DeBoard-Lucas has been focused on community outreach, coordinating and conducting educational presentations, and managing staff and non-clinical volunteers.
Board of Directors. The Board recruited two valuable directors that started new terms in July. Amanda Roberts, Partner and Chief Marketing Strategist at Avid Core, has expertise in areas such as communications, marketing, and public relations. Akreeti Pokhrel, Senior Financial Analyst at AMN Healthcare, brings experience with finance and accounting.
Volunteers. TRUE Center added two new volunteers to the team: Tori Jowers, who coordinates our other volunteers, and Allaine Hontiveros, who manages the organization’s social media presence.
Not all children are good candidates for telehealth (therapy provided virtually). Additionally, working with an all-volunteer staff of clinicians means that our volunteers have a limited number of available time slots. What’s more, the families that we are trying to reach are often experiencing significant life stressors, and many have practical barriers to following through with therapy, despite their strong interest and need.
Because of this, we have faced some challenges in getting families from the point of referral to regular therapy sessions. We are finding the need to field even more referrals than anticipated in order to reach our therapy goal. We are also already thinking about our plans for next year and exploring ways to provide in-person options and expand our appointment availability.
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