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To serve its clients better, Black Mountain Counseling Center is moving to Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministries in February. On Nov. 15, the ministry board voted to expand its partnership with the center by providing three offices and a waiting room in the Renae Brame House (previously named The Opportunity House).

Many of the clients the ministry serves also receive services from Black Mountain Counseling Center (blackmountaincounseling.org), a nonprofit mental health organization that works with clients who have financial difficulties or are uninsured/underinsured. The center, which takes Medicaid clients as well, offers its services on a sliding scale, something made possible by the private contributions it receives, as well as from grants from organizations such as the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina.

The center, the only nonprofit mental health organization in the Swannanoa Valley, has worked with the ministry since 2015, providing counseling services to clients who come to the ministry for food, clothing and financial help. One of the “stumbling blocks” to that partnership, said Ellen Begley, the counseling center's full-time counselor, has been the transportation issues faced by some of their mutual clients who may not be able to drive or get a ride to the center’s current offices on Blue Ridge Road. That won’t be a problem at the Renae Brame House.

“We want to make it easier for folks to get the help they need,” Begley said. “For us, the whole purpose is to reach out to folks that might fall through the cracks

Forty-one percent of the center’s clients come from households bringing in less than $20,000 a year, its records indicate. Thirty-eight percent receive Medicaid, 30 percent have no private or government insurance, and more than 32 percent receive subsidized funding for their counseling sessions.

“The whole mission for the center is to provide mental health without regard to a client’s ability to pay,” Begley said.

With an operating budget this year of $223,100, the center has provided more than 1,250 hour-long counseling sessions so far this year, Begley said. In January, it will contract with four counselors to help with the workload, she said. Winter months tend to bring an influx of clients who suffer what Begley called “seasonal depression” brought on by grief, depression, anxiety and financial stress. “The holidays are tough for a lot of people,” she said.

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