Mental Health Services: CLASSY Awards Top 3

Mental illness is an often silent, and just as often, stigmatized disease that affects millions of people globally. Mental Health programs seek to minimize the burden of mental illness to the patient, but also serve to lessen the stigma associated with such diseases. View the key indicators of this subcategory here.

Counseling and Mental Health Program
Family Health Centers of San Diego
WHAT THEY’RE ADDRESSING According to the California Health Interview Survey, 16% of San Diego county residents say they need help for a mental health problem. Among low income patients, more than 20% have a mental health problem. Economic poverty makes it difficult to afford and access care, and social factors such as isolation due to language and low-literacy also can be barriers to treatment.

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”top5″]Counseling and Mental Health Program
Program Name

San Diego, California

Start date

Nora Cole
Program Director


Based on emerging research that shows that people with a chronic medical condition and mental illness are likely to die 25-30 years younger than those without both conditions, there is a nationwide movement to treat mental health conditions in the primary care setting. Based on this evidence, Family Health Centers is in its third year of a pilot program in which they have taken over the total physical and mental health care of seriously mentally ill patients who have been stabilized. In addition to two family counseling centers, the organization offers integrated mental health services at their primary care medical clinics. The approach is based on research that shows that people prefer mental health treatment in the same location as their medical care because it reduces stigma associated with treatment. Care is provided on a sliding fee scale, and in some cases for no charge. The center measures effectiveness by increasing access to affordable mental health care: in the past two years, the number of patients cared for has increased more than 350%. Fewer than 10% of patients need to go to a higher level of care and 99% of patients report satisfaction with their mental health care. LEARN MORE.

[su_quote cite=”Nora Cole, Program Director” class=”top5″] We are the only program in San Diego that routinely accepts patients with conditions other than depression. All of our mental health patients are linked to a primary care medical home for ongoing physical preventative healthcare. Our greatest strength is our breadth of mental health specialists. [/su_quote]

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Therapy
Marley’s Mission
WHAT THEY’RE ADDRESSING PTSD negatively impacts a child’s ability to succeed academically, emotionally and in their interpersonal relationships. Without successful intervention, children can spiral into a Chronic PTSD diagnosis producing a lifetime of symptoms, including variety of additional psychiatric disorders such as depression, drug abuse, etc. There are currently 3,000 children in the US that are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress as a result of abuse or neglect.

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”top5″]Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Therapy
Program Name

Pennsylvania, United States

Start date

April Loposky
Program Director


Marley’s Mission provides equine-assisted psychotherapy free of charge to children who have experienced emotional trauma. The Mission uses EAP, an evidenced-based, nontraditional therapy modality to treat children who have been unable to flourish in clinical, cognitive-behavioral (CBT) style talk therapy. For most children, Marley’s Mission is the last chance for hope and healing. Rather than horseback riding, sessions are focused on groundwork consisting of a Treatment Team, a child and horses in 1 of the available 3 arenas. With assistance from the Treatment Team, children engage with horses in a variety of interventions or exercises designed to act as metaphors for real-life situations allowing them to learn about themselves and build confidence in an experiential setting. Based upon a recent study of a group of children treated at the Mission in a 1 year period, 91% achieved at least 1 goal outlined in their treatment plan and more than 30% of the group studied achieved each of their treatment goals and successfully transitioned out of treatment at the Mission. LEARN MORE.

[su_quote cite=”April Loposky, Program Director” class=”top5″]Children have seen marked improvement in the management of their anxiety and increased self-confidence which in turn has led to demonstrable improvement in their school setting. Grades have increased, tardiness and absence have decreased -breaking barriers in our clients that at one time seemed insurmountable. [/su_quote]

Marley’s Mission: Horses Healing Children 2013 from Marleys Mission on Vimeo.

Clinical Chapters
A Home Within
WHAT THEY’RE ADDRESSING 50% of foster children and youth suffer from increased tendencies for multiple psychiatric disorders triggered by abuse and neglect in early life, including trauma from removal from their homes and instability of the foster care system. In the US, there are currently 400,000 youth in foster care and 25,000 youth aging out of foster care.

[su_pullquote align=”right” class=”top5″]Clinical Chapters
Program Name

United States

Start date

Dr. Wendy von Wiederhold
Program Director


A Home Within offers pro-bono, open-ended psychotherapy for foster youth through a network of 52 local Clinical Chapters across the country. They recruit and train licensed therapists to provide specialized, evidence-supported treatment that helps foster youth develop meaningful and dynamic relationships that enable them to thrive in their communities. The Clinical Chapters program developed Fostering Relationships, a web-based learning platform and knowledge hub to make what they have learned accessible to non-clinicians working in foster care. By synthesizing lessons learned and adapting it to the needs of staff and volunteers, the platform brings best practices to scale. This interactive resource supports interaction across groups and encourages knowledge sharing. Backed by research by University of San Francisco, the program is cost-effective and provides more social return on investment than the public system, as the cost of services is $200-$1,000/child annually versus the public alternative which can run up to $10,033/child per year. 93% of children treated benefit from weekly collaboration with other important adults in their lives, a significant increase over infrequent contact provided by the public foster care system. LEARN MORE.

[su_quote cite=”Dr. Wendy von Wiederhold, Program Director” class=”top5″]Our model creates a shift in the foster care landscape–showing that support from a trained and caring adult prevents negative life outcomes. Seeing relationships as a powerful agent of change can create a sea change in foster care. When youth have stability in their lives—foster parents, caseworkers, schools, and friends—the social costs associated with foster care will dramatically decrease. [/su_quote]

The Health Experts

The Leadership Council is an honorary board comprised of a diverse group of experts that will collectively determine the winners of the CLASSY Awards in this cause sector. Their unique perspective and valuable insight establishes this recognition as one of the highest honors in the social sector.

Photo credit: Flickr user Catholic Church (England)

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