What began 10 years ago as a small group of volunteers providing mental health referrals within the Jewish community has evolved into a full-fledged mental health referral, education and support organization that takes on 6,000 new patients annually in four major cities across the globe.
The Boro Park based Relief Resources is a non-profit organization that was created in 2001 to serve the unique needs of members of the Jewish community seeking mental health care by partnering them with leading mental health professionals who are both culturally sensitive and well suited to the individual patient. Funded by private donations and government grants, Relief Resources not only offers free referral services to those in search of mental health care but also raises awareness about mental health issues by publishing and distributing informational brochures, conducting seminars for school principals, teachers and clergy members and also maintaining a special eating disorder hotline staffed by trained specialists. There is no question that the demand for mental health care has increased dramatically over the years.
“In its first year, the organization got about two hundred phone calls from people seeking help,” said Relief Resources director Benjamin Babad. “Today we get 200 new calls every 12 days. There used to be a lot of stigma and denial when it came to mental health issues but the environment has changed a lot over the years. We are seeing a tremendous number of calls from community rabbis, principals and teachers who are more aware of issues and realize that some problems can’t be dealt with internally and there are those who just need professional help.”
Relief Resources has dealt with over 40,000 patients in the last 10 years and some of the disorders they address include depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, personality disorders, post traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder. Their staff of trained referral specialists in Boro Park, Lakewood, Toronto and Jerusalem refers callers to a network of carefully screened clinicians worldwide and well over a thousand follow up calls are made monthly to ensure that treatment is progressing well and that the patient-clinician match is a good one.
“It is not as critical to like a physician when it comes to general medicine, but if you don’t click with your therapist then nothing is going to happen,” explained Babad. Some patients are easily treated and can have their issue resolved in a matter of months; others require long-term therapy, and, according to Babad, Relief Resources is there for the long haul, sometimes following patients along for years.
While the difficult economic climate has made it more difficult for the organization to obtain funding, Relief Resources is continuing to look ahead and hopes to open up additional offices in London and Chicago so that they can persevere in their mission of providing mental health services to as many people as possible.
“We are not clinicians,” said Babad. “We are here to make the referrals and walk people through the process. Relief Resources screens our clinicians carefully. We interview them, check them out and track them, to make sure our patients our happy. We have approximately 100,000 patient reports that we analyze so that we can best understand which clinician is good for each type of person. If for any reason a patient isn’t satisfied we will help them out in any way that we can. Relief Resources follows through with our patients to make sure that they get the help they need so that they can go on to live full and happy lives.”
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