According to an American Psychological Association survey released in November, demand for mental health treatment remained high for a third consecutive year. The largest increase came from adolescents ages 13-17. Six in 10 practitioners said they no longer had openings for new patients and 72 percent had longer waitlists than before the pandemic.
The message is clear. Demand for mental health services has never been higher, which is why Nutley Family Service Bureau (NFSB) has been working so hard to grow in terms of staff, services, hours, and outreach.
“Since September of last year, we’ve ramped up our community outreach efforts to make people aware of the mental health services and resources available right here in Nutley,” said Katherine Carmichael, Executive Director of NFSB. “We especially want people to know that we have highly qualified clinicians taking new clients. You don’t have to wait for months or even weeks for an appointment.”
These efforts have included mailings, social media campaigns, networking, educational programs with Nutley Public Schools, and phone calls to surrounding school districts and various healthcare providers in the area. Monthly lunch-and-learns at Nutley High School are a great example of what can be accomplished.
“We offer pizza and invite students to attend and discuss important topics that affect their lives,” Katherine said. “For example, our February lunch-and-learn program focused on healthy relationships and about 20 students participated in the discussion. We have a wonderful relationship with Nutley Public Schools and continue to see referrals for students.”
Inquiries for mental health services at NFSB are at an all-time high, doubling the number of inquiries that we were previously seeing. This dramatic increase in inquiries led to 43 new clients in February.
“The numbers of clients and sessions are increasing 15-20 percent each month,” Katherine said. “We’ve been able to meet our goal of making mental health services accessible in our community by putting clinicians in place to provide more than 1,000 sessions a month. As demand continues to increase, our mental health program continues to expand.”
Many clients use mobile apps for telehealth appointments, which provide flexibility while protecting privacy. For example, clients might schedule appointments during a lunch break or after work. In many cases, clients simply feel more comfortable in a familiar space rather than visiting an office.
In addition to telehealth increasing accessibility and convenience, NFSB is looking to increase after-hours availability to accommodate more in-person appointments during afterschool and evening hours.
As a local, independent nonprofit organization, we’re fortunate to have such a talented, diverse group of credentialed clinicians to meet demand in our community and beyond for mental health services.
We have two full-time clinical supervisors, Staela Keegan, MSW, LCSW, LCADC and Kristen Petullo, MSW, LCSW, both of whom have extensive experience in mental health treatment and leadership. We also have five full-time clinicians and five part-time clinicians. Four are bilingual, which is extremely important considering the increased demand for Spanish-speaking clinicians.
“The depth of experience is impressive,” Katherine said. “In addition to common mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, we have clinicians who are highly experienced in specialized areas like substance use disorders, eating disorders, women’s issues, trauma, and various treatment techniques for adults and children, like art therapy. We also have a wonderful administrative team that works hard to make the client experience comfortable and less stressful.”
NFSB is looking to hire more clinicians to offer evening hours and meet the credentialing requirements of certain insurance providers. We’re also exploring ways to streamline our processes. The goal is to make mental health counseling accessible and convenient for as many people as possible.
“I’m so happy and proud that NFSB is serving so many people, and serving them extremely well,” Katherine said. “It’s so hard for people who seek help and want relief, only to be told they have to wait. That’s not the case at NFSB. Appointments are available right away. Everything we do is driven by community needs, and we’ll continue to look for opportunities to meet the growing demand for mental health services.”
If you or someone you know would like more information about the NFSB mental health program, visit our website or call 973-667-1884.