The Samaritan Counseling Center expands with a new facility as demand for services increases

GREEN BAY, Wisconsin (WBAY) – A Fox Valley-based counseling center is creating more space for more mental health conversations.

Over the past year, the Samaritan Counseling Center has been working to expand its services and facilities with the construction of a brand new building.

The managing director of the non-profit, Rosangela Berbert, says that the new building could not have come at a better time.

“Our primary goal is to provide mental health and behavioral medicine to our community,” Berbert said.

The Samaritan Counseling Center began as a small business in the 1970’s but has not expanded to branch offices in multiple communities and school districts.

“Over time, the need for our services has become very clear,” said Berbert

These services have become even more popular in recent years.

“There’s multiple factors there… people are struggling and resilience is decreasing,” Berbert said.

According to the latest study from the American Psychological Association, one-third of adults say they are so stressed that basic decisions, like deciding what to eat and what to wear on a daily basis, have become more difficult. There is also an increase in compassion fatigue.

“It’s the pandemic, it was the stress around the election. It’s all the uncertainties about how much we need to adapt and suspend our lives to mitigate the risks of this pandemic. It is the social injustices and social movements that have been brewing. All of that took away quite a bit of our sense of security,” said Berbert.

At Samaritan Counseling, they saw an 18 percent increase in billable hours from 2020 to 2021, meaning people need counseling a little longer.

“We’ve gone from an average of five and a half sessions per client in 2019 to over seven sessions per client in 2021,” said Berbert.

Berbert said her school-based wellness services also saw a 133 percent increase in children requiring further evaluation by a provider.

“From January to December 2020, we referred 230 students for further evaluation,” said Berbert. “In 2021 we placed 775 students.”

Berbert said that with demand increasing, they decided to build a brand new, larger facility. The capital campaign started in 2019.

“Our initial goal was to raise $2.85 million, which includes all costs for the land we bought and construction,” Berbert said.

The new facility will be twice the size of the old one, with 14 counseling offices, a large conference room and a self-catering room where staff can reconnect.

“The two years of remote work and especially the team members working in schools need a place where they can come together. And, you know, re-energize and fill up your resistance tank,” Berbert said.

“There’s just been a lot of stress in the last few years and in pretty much everyone’s life. I don’t think anyone is exempt from this. And as a result, it shows…is this increased anxiety and increased stress and a place like Samaritan Counseling is here,” said John Wallschlaeger, a capital campaign member for the Samaritan Counseling Center.

Wallschlaeger was part of the capital campaign from the start because he saw a need for more mental health services in the community during his career as a law enforcement officer.

“When the crisis hits it sometimes leads to a contact with the police so law enforcement can see the crisis and services in the community can see to help those individuals, it’s a great thing to connect those two together,” said Wallschlager. “There are resources in the community, like Samaritan, that can meet their needs.”

The opening is slated for this summer, but there is still time for donations as a generous donor from the community will match donations up to $250,000.

Amid a dramatic increase in the need for mental health care, the Fox Valley-based Samaritan Counseling Center is about to open the doors to its expansion.

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