By Jill Keppeler
For more than 60 decades, The Dale Association has helped the older residents of Niagara County ... and for the past 15 years, North Tonawanda has been the primary home to its efforts to provide mental health services to all adults.
Now, the association will celebrate those 15 years - and the start of a new chapter at a new site in the city - with an open house Sept. 9 at that site.
Patricia Quirk, marketing coordinator for The Dale Association, said the Outpatient Counseling and Treatment Center moved to the new site at 624 River Road from a location in a plaza down the road. It's now located in a wellness park right on the Niagara River.
"We were outgrowing our space and needed to be in a better environment," she said. "It's a beautiful location; it overlooks the river."
The staff includes psychiatrists, registered nurses, clinicians and other professionals who provide counseling and treatment to adults 18 and over for mental health issues including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders and more.
"We're really proud of the center; we treat about 500 adults per year in a person-centered environment," Quirk said, adding that 100 percent of clients referred to the center are seen within five days, better than the standard.
The Dale Association, which is based in Lockport, has existed since 1951. In the '70s, it began offering mental-health counseling to adults in the area, the first senior organization in the United States to offer those services (which are now available to adults of all ages).
Trish Copeland, director of the center, said that it offers one-on-one counseling, groups, medication management and health monitoring services.
"I think everyone knows mental health issues have been on the rise and there are so many people who need help, little things, big things, long term, short term," she said. "The main thing counseling should do for someone is help them help themselves. It's not about us trying to cure them, give them the magic pill ... everyone's treatment is different.
"It's not a cut-and-dried 'this is what we do.' It's individualized."
All the counselors are licensed and the staff is very helpful, Copeland said.
"It's a nice place, the people are nice, we understand mental health; if you have a bad day, a good day, it's not going to be held against you. ... The staff is great," she said.
While The Dale Association has branched out to mental health services over the years, it all started with the senior services, "the heart of the agency," Quirk said. It began with nine volunteers providing social and nutritional needs to their neighbors and grew from there, she said.
"We've been most known for our senior services; we have lots of support services for the elderly, all designed to maintain independence and fulfillment for people as they age," she said. Services include a telephone reassurance program, vision and hearing assistance, a Memory Minders program, a senior advisor, transportation, caregiver support, health screening, travel and exercise programs and more, "just a myriad of offerings to make life easier."
At the Lockport center, 11,000 people came through just in the first quarter of this year, Quirk said.
"They come because they know they can get a hot meal, they come because they know the staff cares, they come to take a class ... It's really nice to see that kind of consistent visitation," she said.
While the North Tonawanda site may not see those kinds of numbers, it's still an important piece of the puzzle. Copeland noted the importance of its services for the welfare of Niagara County residents.
"There's still a stigma (to mental illness) ... but I think that the stigma is less because people are understanding or trying to understand a little bit more," she said. "I think more and more people are getting more education, caring more about what's going on.
"We are still around, for a small clinic, and we do help a lot of people. And I'm proud of that."
Maureen A. Wendt, president/CEO of The Dale Association, also said she hoped the public would join in the celebration of the 15-year mark.
"Our Outpatient Counseling and Treatment Center helps adults who are working towards recovery from mental and emotional challenges to remain stable and reside in the community," she said in a statement. "The theme of this celebration is to focus on our wonderful new facility and the staff who help individuals take charge of their lives by making positive changes with their mental health well-being."
WHEN & WHERE
An open house will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. Sept. 9 at The Dale Association's Outpatient Counseling and Treatment Center at 624 River Road, North Tonawanda. The event will feature a ribbon-cutting at 4:30 p.m. and tours of the building. To RSVP, call 716-693-9961. For more information, visit www.daleassociation.com/mental_health_services/mental_health_services_outpatient_counseling.html.