Fourteen years ago, Carolyn Khan had a vision to bridge missing gaps in the mental health system in Will County.
Along with 12 other concerned citizens, Bridges to a New Day was formed, which became incorporated in 2004. At that time it provided parent workshops, and out of those workshops the need for counseling services, especially those in family counseling, became apparent.
Bridges to a New Day in Romeoville offers a domestic violence program, a counseling program and Darlene’s Program, a “reduced-fee program that is designed to help bridge the gap for clients who do not have adequate resources to obtain counseling,” according to a statement by Khan, Bridges to a New Day executive director.
In 2017, Darlene’s Program became a part of the United Way of Will County programs benefited by The Herald-News’ Herald Angels program sponsored under its healthy lifestyles community investments plan. The program, which saw 95 clients in 2017 has been funded solely by private donors up until 2017, when it received funds from the United Way of Will County.
In 2017, the United Way of Will County funded 113 programs under 50 nonprofits in the community investments umbrella, with four subgroups: youth success, self-sufficiency, healthy lifestyles and safer community.
Under its healthy lifestyles program, United Way of Will County has a mission to “invest in medical, behavioral health, rehabilitation and psychological programs resulting in a healthier community and enhanced quality of life.”
Mike Hennessey, president and CEO of United Way of Will County said one in three Will County residents have been served by the United Way of Will County in 2017.
Khan said the clients range fromfamilies, children and veterans, but most of the counseling patients under the Darlene’s Program have sought out family counseling. She also stated that in 2017, she has seen an upswing in financial stresses, which has not been prevalent for several years.
Bridges to a New Day clinical director Karen Olalde said, “We have a diverse clientele, but the more common things are family issues, such as a child misbehaving at school, people who are severely depressed or have anxiety. The kids we see may have fears of school because of peers, things are going on at home and they worry what will happen if they are not there, or text anxiety.”
She said she also helps relationship problems, such as infidelity or stress-related issues possibly from couples who do not have much time together.
Khan said to qualify for Darlene’s Program, clients must provide proof of financial need, lack of insurance or be underserved or underinsured. Clients must also provide proof of income and have insurance deductibles, be a veteran, a high school student, no health insurance coverage as well as other circumstances that can be deemed appropriate by Khan for the program.
Khan said Darlene’s Program has found its way into local elementary schools and provides free group sessions that focus on bullying, self-esteem, making friends, feelings, how to handle anger, conflict resolution and more.
Because of the $7,500 funding from the United Way of Will County, Khan said programs like the in-school group program can take place and hopes to be expanded in the future. She said with the funds Bridges to a New Day was also able to add three hours of counseling hours on Mondays through its Darlene’s Program.
Beyond the money directly from United Way of Will County, Khan said being under its umbrella has helped to promote Bridges to a New Day.
“Before I wondered if it would make any difference, but they let people know about us, refer clients to us and the word has also spread to donors as well. So, we get the funding and clients know we exist,” Khan said.
Olalde said donors or those in need of services can go to the website bridgestoanewday.org for further information on Darlene’s Program.
She said Bridges to a New Day has various events, with a large fundraiser in March and information can be found online. The nonprofit has an Etsy store called Vintage Bridges were people can shop as well. Volunteers for fundraisers, data entry, and the Etsy shop re another asset, Olalde said.