NEW ORLEANS — The Loyola Center for Counseling and Education (LCCE) received a $2.5 million grant to expand its trauma-informed counseling and play therapy services to hundreds more children and families in New Orleans over the next five years.
The grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will help the Center further develop, maintain and enhance infant and early childhood mental health promotion, intervention and treatment services. It will enable LCCE to serve an additional 450 children between the ages of 5 and 12, train 260 mental healthcare professionals and provide outreach to 20 early childhood educators and caregivers. Fifty-two graduate students will be trained and certified to use evidence-based, trauma-informed care and child-centered play therapy.
“This grant will allow us to create a community-based approach to services,” said LCCE clinical director and professor of practice Denise Gilstrap. “We will increase our capacity to respond to the mental healthcare needs of children in New Orleans by expanding our clinical team and training early childhood professionals on trauma-informed practices. We hope to build something that will be a part of LCCE and the community for a long time.”
About 26% of children in New Orleans live in poverty and experience trauma and community violence at a rate four times the national average. Louisiana ranks at the bottom in terms of access to mental health care services.
Families that seek treatment at the LCCE often come to the clinic after being waitlisted at other clinics or being unable to find a play therapy provider that accepts Medicaid, Gilstrap said. The sliding-fee scale LCCE uses provides families access to services regardless of socioeconomic status. The clinic also offers counseling for those who cannot afford to pay. The grant provides additional funding dedicated to providing services to children up to age 12, allowing LCCE to fill a critical gap for access to evidence-based counseling in the Greater New Orleans area. The grant will help the Center expand its services, especially to clients with Medicaid who haven’t been able to access these critical services elsewhere. The grant program will also hire a case manager who can help families navigate issues with employment, transportation, immigration and more.
The Center is housed within the College of Nursing & Health at Loyola University New Orleans. Since its opening in 2019, LCCE has been committed to providing effective mental health counseling services on a sliding scale to underserved families, couples, groups and individuals at every stage of life. LCCE supervises training for graduate students in Loyola University’s Department of Counseling and hosts professional development workshops for clinicians.
The Center was born out of a necessity to serve a community in crisis. Louisiana ranks 49th out of 50 states in overall child well-being and is the 11th worst state for mental healthcare.
“This grant is a fantastic shot of life into the clinic and our ability to really go in and work toward meaningful change in the community,” said John Dewell, the clinic’s founding director and an associate professor at Loyola. “We can positively impact young childhood mental health and the systems supporting children’s mental health. We’ll build relationships with others in the community to provide a more comprehensive and less-segmented approach to improving mental health outcomes for children and make a difference for more people.”