A Farewell to Fredericksburg Counseling Services
Remembering Fredericksburg Counseling Services, a free mental health clinic
Since 1962, Fredericksburg Counseling Services has provided much needed behavioral healthcare counseling and education to low income and uninsured residents while also serving as clinical training opportunity for future practitioners. Now, after sixty years of service to the community, the mental health clinic is permanently closing its doors at the end of the year due to a steady decline in eligible mental health professionals. “Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we've seen an immense increase in demand for behavioral healthcare services, however we've also seen tremendous deficiencies in the availability of eligible mental health workers,” shared Anise Broadus, Office Manager. “Even with additional outreach to secure additional eligible providers, we could not obtain the necessary staffing to continue operations.”
Fredericksburg Counseling Services has served the healthcare needs of the uninsured in the George Washington Regional Commission, also known as Planning District 16. At its peak the free mental health clinic saw 210 uninsured patients in a year. Over the years, the clinic partnered with various institutions of higher learning to provide up to 17 annual student internships for future clinical practitioners. Fredericksburg Personal Counseling Service was established on May 21, 1962, as a community service project to "Help People to Help Themselves." Robert H. Shaw was the agency's first Staff Director and served for a 2-year term. The purpose of the agency was to provide client-centered counseling. This was done through the counseling relationship in which the counselor gave clients the opportunity to talk through their feelings and difficulties.
In August 1987, the organization amended the mission to focus on being a low-cost community mental health clinic to serve uninsured or underinsured. It also focused on people who were at 200% and below the federal poverty income level. This was achieved through extensive support from the Rappahannock United Way and community benefactors. On August 14, 2001, the clinic changed its name to Fredericksburg Counseling Services. The restructured organization continued a mission of serving people who were at 200% and below the federal poverty income level. It also began a decades long training facility for graduate level license eligible training. Fredericksburg Counseling Services provided a program for graduate students to accumulate hours to fulfill requirements for practicums/internships and license eligible graduates. The organization also provided opportunities for bachelor's degree students who were seeking academic preparation with opportunities to observe and participate in clinical mental health outreach to the Fredericksburg community.
However, despite broad community support throughout the years, the Board voted to cease operations following continued losses in staffing that could not be filled. The clinic is currently working to transition patients to new mental healthcare providers in the community and redistribute assets to community organizations that serve the uninsured. Following, the board will begin closing operations with an anticipated completion on or before December 31, 2022.
The Board of Directors is grateful for the support and appreciation given by donors, volunteers, and patients over the years. “We are proud of the clinic's history of quality care provided to many of our community's most vulnerable citizens,” Catherine Jennings, Clinic Board Chair, Board President reports. “For years we safeguarded the health of many who would have ‘slipped through the cracks' of the system. We are a healthier community because of this free clinic.”