Family Counseling Center celebrates 100 years of service
Community • It is the only agency focused on helping the uninsured get mental-health treatment.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Murray • As young World War II veterans returned from their nerve-wracking tours in Europe, the Pacific and other areas, they were bringing home to Utah a host of psychological wounds, the ones that don't show on a face.

The Family Counseling Center helped.

Before that, during The Great Depression, it helped families find employment.

And before that, when called the Charity Organization Society of Salt Lake, it helped with clothing and coal for struggling families.

The august organization was formed 100 years ago in 1912 by prominent community leaders, such as Simon Bamberger, the first Democrat, and the first and only Jew, to be elected governor of Utah; the Rev. Elmer Goshen, from the First Congregational Church, who founded the first Utah Boy Scouts troop; and Brig. Gen. Richard W. Young, grandson of Brigham Young.

"It has an interesting history," executive director Kate Della-Piana said. "We have some old papers from the early days when [the bills] were $47 to repair the [horse-drawn] wagon."

Today, the center's bills are bigger, but the community pitched in by celebrating the centennial with a recent fundraising event. Elizabeth Smart received the Center's Legacy of Hope Award. The event garnered some $150,000 that night to go toward the nonprofit's annual $1 million budget.

Today, 20 therapists help some 1,200 clients per year with grief, depression and addiction, among other issues.

A majority of Family Counseling Center clients fall into a mental-health gray area because of their income: the uninsured, the middle-income or the "working poor." They are often ineligible for welfare services because they are employed, but still are unable to afford the expense of counseling.

Officials said FCC is the only Salt Lake County agency with a mission to serve the mental health of people with no insurance. Through its Community Cares program, people can receive psychological services based on their income, allowing each person to pay what he or she can afford.

Sherri Griggs came for counseling a couple of months ago looking for help in dealing with her relationships.

"A lot of the therapists in my past were church-based," Griggs said. "[The Center] is more about spiritual as opposed to religious."

Griggs said it can be hard to find the right therapists, especially if you have no health insurance.

"Although she's a family therapist, my problems involve relationships and that's what [family therapists] are all about."

And is there still a stigma to mental health?

"It's a lot more accepted," Griggs said. "People don't want to admit there's something wrong with them. Even if you're in a good position, I think it would be good to go to a therapist. There's always tough times."

Della-Piana, a licensed clinical social worker, has been the center's director for the past 13 years, but has worked from Washington, D.C., to California, working with those in rape recovery to those in state prisons.

She now works with members of the Salt Lake community.

"One in four adults experience depression and anxiety," Della-Piana said. "Statistics with employees missing work, depression is the major reason, more than cancer or heart disease, so mental health has a tremendous impact."

And, she said, for the past 100 years, the Family Counseling Center has helped the Salt Lake County community stay strong.

rparker@sltrib.com

Twitter: @rayutah —

Family Counseling Center

Officials said FCC is the only Salt Lake County agency with a mission to serve the mental health of people with no health insurance. A sliding-fee scale determines how much clients pay for psychological services, which are based on the federal poverty level. In 2012, it's based on family size, so one person can make annually a maximum of $11,170; two people can make $15,130 and three $19,090.