Executive Director and Legislative Affairs Representative
Pro Bono Counseling Project
Last month, the Pro Bono Counseling Project sent a study conducted by our offices to a number of Montgomery County legislators, which uncovered a number of points about the importance of providing mental health services to the poor and marginalized populations of Maryland.
The study was conducted over a period of four years and the data was collected through a series of phone calls to our clients. Our clients’ needs were initially assessed by the PBCP, who would then connect them with a therapist. The office would then contact the client again after one, three and six month periods to quantify the effectiveness of their treatment. In these follow-up phone interviews, we would ask them if they had an appointment with their therapist and also if their well-being, job status, financial status, and satisfaction with life situation has improved.
This study and the findings uncover three main points about the value of mental health services to underserved populations:
- Our clients who reported meeting with the mental health therapist we assigned to them were 10.4 percent more likely to report satisfaction with their job situation and 17.7 percent more likely to report satisfaction with their financial situation compared to our clients who did not meet with their therapist.
- On a Likert Scale from one to five, clients who met with their therapist all reported higher levels of well-being (+.364) and satisfaction with life situation (+.197) than those who did not meet with their therapist.
- The average age of our clients is 36.8 years. However, the average age of our clients who ended up contacting their therapist was 38.41 years and the average age for those who did not was 34.92 years, indicating that younger people may be more hesitant to seek mental health services. Schools, pediatricians, and government officials have a role to play in fixing this by lifting the stigma surrounding therapy at a young age, before misconceptions develop.
As these findings show, just taking the first step in meeting with a therapist can make a dramatic difference in the lives of those from the most vulnerable populations. With numbers this significant, providing easy and affordable access to mental health services for poor and marginalized populations has the potential to improve Maryland’s economy by decreasing unemployment and underemployment as well as easing the burden on state entitlement programs.
A copy of the study and its findings was sent to Montgomery County Delegates Bonnie Cullison, Sheila Hixson, Ariana Kelly, Marice Morales and Kirill Reznik as well as two key state senators from our county – Brian Feldman and Cheryl Kagan. All of these Montgomery County legislators have either introduced mental health legislation in previous sessions, are members of the Minority Health Disparities Subcommittee or a similar health committee, or are friends of the center. Feldman and Kelly are especially important legislators for this issue because they are on the Task Force to Study Maternal Mental Health.
We urge all Montgomery County residents to contact the delegates and senators mentioned above and tell them to take these findings into consideration when drafting, sponsoring, and voting for legislation relating to mental health care.
Barbara Anderson is the Executive Director of the Pro Bono Counseling Project in Towson, MD, which helps underserved populations all over the state get connected with mental health clinicians.
Steven Cenname of Rockville, MD is the legislative affairs representative for the Pro Bono Counseling Project and a current Master’s Student in Public Policy at Johns Hopkins University.