Mental health is often misunderstood, but it’s something we all deal with. Life is full of difficult experiences, grief to overcome and strife to cope with. It all adds up to a lot of stress on our minds. Luckily for Pasadenans, the Pasadena Mental Health Center (PMHC) has been providing vital services since 1965.
By Justin Chapman
But what is mental health exactly, and why is it so important that we pay attention to it? Chanel Boutakidis, former executive director of PMHC, said it’s essential to maintaining a healthy and happy life.
“Mental health is a state of well-being,” said Boutakidis. “We all need to have a healthy state of mental health. It is what we use to cope with the normal stresses of life so that we can be productive, happy, and so that we are able to contribute to our community. It is what helps us to create life balance.”
Boutakidis currently serves as the CEO of Five Acres, otherwise known as the Boys’ and Girls’ Aid Society of Los Angeles County, a youth advocacy organization in Altadena which started out as an orphanage in 1888. In 2007, PMHC officially joined forces with Five Acres. The two organizations had worked collaboratively together for many years before that. Five Acres serves children and PMHC began serving their parents. Around the time the Great Recession hit in 2008, PMHC reached out to Five Acres for help in order to continue providing valuable mental health services to the community.
Today, Five Acres is involved in the overall governance of PMHC. For the past three years, PMHC has partnered with Five Acres’ school-based program in the Pasadena Unified School District to provide counseling to students who otherwise would not have been eligible for services. PMHC has become the go-to provider for individuals and families living below the poverty line.
“PMHC is the only provider of affordable, non-acute mental health services in the Pasadena area for low-income individuals and families who are uninsured and do not qualify for Medi-Cal,” said Boutakidis. “Seventy percent of the families and individuals we service have an average annual income below $19,000 and are uninsured or under-insured with limited resources for health care. All consultations and services are provided on a sliding scale fee basis, depending on ability to pay. PMHC provides counseling to more than 1,000 clients a year.”
Those services cover individual, couple, family and group counseling, with sessions available in both English and Spanish. They also provide counseling and therapeutic services to clients who may be dealing with mild mental illness. When someone needs a service that is not provided by PMHC, the center also helps them find resources throughout the community, such as low-cost housing, food banks, vocational services, low-cost child care and more. It is an organization that collaborates with many important institutions throughout Greater Pasadena.
“Our Youth Accountability Program, in partnership with the Pasadena Police Department, works with juveniles who have committed a minor first criminal offense,” said Boutakidis. “The program provides individual, family and group therapy to youth and their families, as well as parenting classes. Overall, it has been very successful in keeping youth out of the criminal justice system.”
Ultimately, PMHC is there to help people deal with the challenges in their lives. Its stated mission is to “provide affordable, accessible and appropriate mental health services for individuals, families and children in the diverse Pasadena area and surrounding communities who have no other resources for such care.” Affordable mental health services remain difficult to find; meanwhile mental health remains essential to a happy life. That’s why the Pasadena Mental Health Center has become such a valuable organization in the Pasadena community.
The Pasadena Mental Health Center is located at 1495 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena. Visit pmhcenter.org for more information.