By Peter Gamache, Ph.D. & Jackie Sue Griffin, MBA, MS, Turnaround Life, Inc.
In his role as TCE Project Coordinator at Metro Inclusive Health, Tyrone Singletary knows that when most of his clients first walk through the door, they aren’t there with Project CARE in mind.
Project CARE is dedicated to providing mental health services for men and women of all races and ethnicities belonging to the LGBTQ community, all of whom have suffered trauma or are working through issues with drugs, sexual abuse or mental health. Nearly all of his clients start at Metro Inclusive Health for other reasons.
“The vast majority of our clients first come here for more basic services – food, medical care, HIV testing,” said Singletary. “We have amazing navigators that help them when they first arrive and quickly spot if mental health services are also needed.”
Many clients first arrive at Metro primarily in need of medical services, but others face more dire circumstances. African American and Latino men in Hillsborough County have a particularly difficult time after coming out as Gay or Bisexual.
“We see more homelessness in the population in Hillsborough as compared with Pinellas County,” said Singletary. “It’s very common to find men who have been disowned by their families and kicked out of their homes. They come to us having had everything taken away from them, including a very real sense of belonging and community. So we have to start at the start, with the very basics they need to function day-to-day. Once they are stabilized with food, shelter, and necessary medical treatment, we can begin working with them.”
This preparation is not as easy as it sounds. There are many barriers to mental health treatment for Metro’s target population.
“It can be difficult to get African American and Latino men over the age of 35 to come in to get mental health services,” said Singletary. “You have to work to convince them that doing so will make a real difference in their lives. They’re so used to the anger and the pain that they don’t realize it’s not normal.”
Many clients decide to attend group or individual counseling. They do this because they believe that doing so will ultimately make life better for their families and friends. Project CARE is currently helping 130 clients, with five to 10 individuals receiving counseling each day in one-on-one sessions. Group sessions throughout the week help 10 to 15 clients at a time.
Singletary gains real satisfaction seeing lives transformed through the program he has come to love.
“Real success for us comes in the form of each of these clients realizing that there is a need for treatment,” said Singletary. “We want them to be excited to meet with a therapist because they know they have the opportunity to make real progress in their own lives. When that happens, we know they are on the path to a better life. That’s powerful work.”
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