The challenges communities face surrounding mental health have been exacerbated recently. The demand for services continues to grow because the supply of clinicians and access to care remains inadequate. Our town is fortunate to have a local agency engaged to serve our residents while also serving to train new clinicians to meet the growing demand for services.
The Marblehead Counseling Center (MCC) is a nonprofit community resource that is uniquely positioned to support our residents and meet their mental health needs as they arise. MCC’s history is a complement to the rich and lauded history we celebrate in our town. In 1969, a small group of Marbleheaders, led by the Reverend Ward Gamble founded the MCC to provide services to families and individuals, regardless of income.
The original board members included Jack Welter, Ward Gamble, Joyce Maffei and Dr. William Haley. Ron Michaud, a social worker, was the first counselor. According to former Executive Director Paul Crosby, the agency was originally funded by the Select Board and then its budget was supported through the schools and the Board of Health to support substance use and mental health problems such as depression and family upheaval.
According to Marie Ouellette, LICSW, who serves as the chief clinical officer, “this funding enabled employees of the town to get services.”
The relationship between the town and the MCC is exemplary of a community of care wherein individuals whose work supports our town are supported through the center, and the town helps fund their care.
According to Crosby, “The uniqueness of the agency was that it was a town agency, a community agency that did a lot of community work.”
While serving as executive director, Crosby sat on 15 different committees and task forces, including for schools, ministerial, housing and AIDS awareness. These connections enabled the center to support clients’ needs as they arose.
Crosby described “When people are struggling financially, it’s hard to have good mental health. It’s not just counseling, but the broader life of people in the community that are supported.”
He recalled a family that needed sponsorship to pay for an electric bill and another family with a disabled child that needed an elevator put into their house. The MCC helped raise money for the family.
“Marblehead is a community that has a sense of taking care of their own. It’s an isolated community, one with a couple of ways in and out, so the people in town tend to answer the call for one of their own,” Crosby said.
In 1989, the MCC had grown to a staff of eight when Paul Crosby became the executive director. Interestingly, two initiatives were sponsored by the center that remain impactful to this day. The Marblehead Food Pantry and the Making Ends Meet Foundation continue to support residents in need. Food insecurity and financial insecurity adversely affect mental health in families and sponsoring these organizations demonstrates the holistic care provided at MCC. The Marblehead Female Humane Society is a vital community partner, providing financial support for families in crisis to assist a person or family in pursuing or maintaining stability in their lives.
According to Ouellette, “Twenty years ago, the MCC didn’t take insurance, they basically just served the town of Marblehead. A therapist said that one client came in for counseling and paid a lottery ticket for the fee.”
Once they began accepting insurances, they empaneled other therapists and began to serve more clients. “So we’ve been treating a lot more people and accepting more insurance. We focus on the residents of the town of Marblehead, and we get referrals from schools and churches,” said Ouellette. They’ve served “generations of clients, and children of former clients.”
When demand for services grew during the pandemic, the MCC swiftly built capacity to serve patients remotely. They have adapted to meet patients where they are. Fortunately, the stigma associated with mental health has dissipated as people have become more comfortable talking about their mental health. The town’s support of the MCC shifted to be budgeted through the Board of Health, which reinforces that our town supports mental health services and emphasizes the value in aiming to provide care for all residents on a sliding scale, so as not to be a burden on people that cannot afford care.
There is an energized board that buttresses the work of the Marblehead Counseling Center through fundraising, strategic planning, engaging internships for future clinicians and supporting the care offered by the clinicians.
Here are several ways we can all continue to maintain and grow this valuable mental health resource: participate in the annual golf tournament coming this fall; contribute annually to the “Friends” campaign when that solicitation arrives in the mail and buy tickets to the Gerry Five’s entertainment fundraiser that takes place in late November. It’s important, as well, to encourage our public officials to continue their support for keeping the MCC a centerpiece of the town’s mental health priorities.
Marblehead Cares is a monthly column written by members of the Marblehead Mental Health Task Force, which provides leadership and a community-wide focus by engaging providers, residents of all ages and the greater Marblehead community in mental health and wellness initiatives. To learn more, visit marbleheadcares.org/.