MARBLEHEAD — The Marblehead Counseling Center and Redd’s Pond have each received $25,000 in funding after the Massachusetts fiscal year 2024 budget was passed last Thursday.
The grants, secured by state Sen. Brendan Crighton and state Rep. Jenny Armini, who both represent Marblehead, will help both the center and the pond at crucial times. Since the pandemic, the center has struggled with counselor shortages and budget deficits, while the pond’s infrastructure is in need of major restorations.
“For me, they represent incredibly special places in the life of our community because they both contribute to Marblehead’s health and wellness in different ways,” Armini said.
As a community-based practice, the counseling center has struggled to keep up with the changing reimbursement rates of insurance companies and clients’ copayments. Counseling Center Business Manager Lisa Cohen said in a statement that trying to keep up with the changes and negotiating for rates similar to bigger providers is challenging.
“There is such a need for us to remain a local resource and continue to serve our community, but we are stretched very thin,” Cohen said.
Roughly 200 people were on the center’s waiting list in October, half of whom were young adults, teenagers, and children. Despite operating with a budgetary deficit, the center completed 6,400 sessions in FY22. In a Mental Health Task Force meeting last year, members stated that the center took in $586,000 of revenue, while its operating expenses were $729,000.
In May, both Crighton and Armini visited the center and started a continued collaboration focused on improving access to mental health resources. Cohen laid out some of the ways that the center hopes the collaboration can help improve its service to the community.
“We aim to help inform the conversations regarding creating efficiencies in insurance billing, advocating for more parity among providers with respect to insurers’ reimbursement rates, and outreach to our clients who have been impacted by the recent MassHealth redetermination fallout, resulting in uninformed insurance changes and in some cases, disenrollment,” Cohen said in the statement.
Armini added that the center has been “overwhelmed with need” since the pandemic.
“Hopefully this will help them help us,” Armini said.
At Redd’s Pond, the money received for infrastructure upgrades will go toward the pond’s retaining wall and pathways.
Located at the bottom of Old Burial Hill, the pond is one of the town’s many historic landmarks. As someone who lives near the pond and has spent a lot of her time there, Armini stressed the importance of preserving it and its amenities.
“The pond is a treasure,” Armini said. “I think everyone has a memory at Redd’s Pond… That’s what makes preserving it so important, because it really is part of who we are as a community.”