May 15—FAIRMONT — Before settling down in Fairmont two years ago, Jude Black and her husband had moved 19 times.
Black, a licensed professional counselor, recently moved her offices at Appalachian Life Enrichment and Counseling Center to 207 Fairmont Avenue to have more space. Friday, Black was joined by members of the business community and the Marion County Chamber of Commerce for a ribbon-cutting ceremony stating she is back in business.
Black believes successful communities are built through healthy supportive relationships and it only takes one connection. The granddaughter of a West Virginia coal miner whose mother was born in Rachel, said Fairmont is her and her husband's last move.
"We had already started something that nobody had started in this area. When our clients came to us when we first started on the corner we offered them teletherapy," Black said.
During the pandemic, the center provided 8,000 sessions. The center also integrated walk and talks for clients who were challenged with technology, a counselor would meet patients in front of the center and they would walk through town and work through things.
"Our first year, we did $34,000 of pro-bono work in our community and what that means is it's pretty much free services by experts," Black said.
Black said the reason she came back to Fairmont was because her father was ill and she wanted him to be closer to family and friends.
"Through the journey I just saw a need in Fairmont and wanted to create a place that was very, very different from what was available," Black said.
Black said Fairmont is all about the connections, and due to the pandemic the center hasn't marketed but they're available and seeing clients.
"The ribbon cutting is just going to highlight that mental health is maybe mental wellness and coming and talking with someone allows you to carry your things a little bit differently so you can go out and do life without the struggles and actually maybe have some coping skills," Black said.
Kiley Brescoach, clinical director at the center, said staying busy keeps the providers at the center on their toes in finding new approaches to help patients.
"We're very innovative here. We like to try new things and we have a therapy dog and we love to bring her in, bring her on some of our walk and talks and people really love that," Brescoach said.
Black said a lot of people are struggling with anxiety during the pandemic and adjustment disorders where people are used to being connected out in the community.
"We're also seeing depression and some traumas that you might have felt like you dealt with in the past, they're popping up again because you have a lot of time by yourself," Black said.
Brescoach said the center has seen a lot of grief not only for the loss of family and friends but also losses of what life was like before the pandemic.
Brescoach said walk and talks are good for both physical and mental wellbeing.
"If we can get people moving a lot of times things like depression and anxiety, they can be pretty debilitating and make people feel like they don't want to get out of bed so we give them a reason to get out," Brescoach said.
Brescoach said she thinks mental health is something that touches us all by either family members, friends, teachers and role models.
"I think that's just our goal to continue to spread awareness about that. Help people with what they're struggling with," Brecoach.
Black said she wants to be in the community, and when people don't have answers they can come talk with a counselor and figure it out.
Black also runs a nonprofit called the Appalachian Trauma and Resiliency Center, which provides education for firefighters, first responders, police and others in the field.
"I think that's one of the things that we really honed in on within the center. There's really not mistakes. It's learning lessons and you can't mess up. We're going to figure it out," Black said.
Reach Sarah Marino at 304-367-2549