new at Outreach

If you have never used Outreach Teen & Family Services, you’ve probably walked past the agency’s’ unassuming Uptown office without ever realizing it.

If you have used Outreach’s services but not in a while, you might be surprised to learn that the counseling center, once only for teens, has developed new programs and expanded its reach. Outreach now serves children through young adults (ages 5 to 21) and their families both here and in neighboring communities.

This year, Outreach is listed as a top-rated nonprofit by Great Nonprofits, a national nonprofit rating site, and a Gold Seal of Transparency from Guidestar, a site that tracks how nonprofits spend their money. “It’s nice when your hard work is recognized,” says Outreach Executive Director Mary Birks. She is quick to credit her staff, including Dr. Tracy Limegrover and her team, for securing the kudos.

The newest Outreach program, Mental Health First Aid, debuted this fall. It shows how to identify and respond to signs of addiction, depression and other mental health issues. The class, which is taught in Outreach’s office at 666 Washington Road or can be presented on-site at workplaces or schools, offers strategies for de-escalating angry or confrontational situations and covers topics including anxiety, relationship violence, stress eating, self-mutilation and other risky behaviors.

Outreach also is updating its STEP (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) Teen program. Birks plans to launch the revamped program this coming winter, with an additional curriculum for court-referred teens.

Other new or expanded things at Outreach are a divorce and separation workshop for women that debuted this fall and the addition of “juuling” to its Choices drug and alcohol program for young people. Juuls are e-cigarettes in the form of a computer flash drive, in flavors like mint, crème brulee and mango, and the steam from juuls does not smell like that of other e-cigarettes, making it more difficult to detect.

Mary Birks, Outreach Executive  Director

Birks says Outreach’s recent designation as an approved Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider enables them to reach out to a new sector. “Not a lot of EAP providers work with kids,” she says.

Outreach has also secured a grant to expand the reach of its Teen Screen program, a Columbia University-developed program that screens for risk factors associated with depression and other mental illnesses, and its aggression replacement training class, which covers basic anger management and helps young people to better determine right and wrong in approaches to everyday situations.

Outreach was formed in 1974 as a drop-in center for teens as the outgrowth of a series of community conversations led by the Mt. Lebanon Community Relations Board in partnership with Mt. Lebanon Police Department to address the issue of at-risk behavior in teens.

Today, Outreach has 12 part-time counselors who hold a minimum of a master’s degree in counseling, social work or education. New clients’ specific needs are matched with a counselor’s area of expertise, which include abuse issues, anger, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, bullying, children of divorce, depression, addiction, oppositional defiance, peer pressure, self-esteem, self-harm (cutting), stress and many other topics.

Outreach is able to provide free counseling to Mt. Lebanon residents because of an annual municipal subsidy. This year’s funding is $104,040, which provides for 1,045 hours of direct service. “We’re fortunate to be located in a community that cares about kids,” says Birks.

The funding ensures Mt. Lebanon residents are entitled to two free counseling sessions, followed by eight more at a reduced rate of $20 per session. Additional sessions are billed at the organization’s $50 rate, but no one is turned away if they cannot pay. Outreach can bill on a sliding scale based on income.