Looking up at the Up Center

Published 10:34 pm Thursday, January 15, 2009

A little more than a year ago, the first client walked into the Clay Street building that houses the agency formerly known as Child & Family Services of Eastern Virginia looking for help.

Perhaps that person needed help overcoming a paralyzing case of depression. Maybe she was a veteran having a hard time blending back into life in the states as a civilian. He could have been a young boy having trouble making friends and passing courses at school because of an undiagnosed psychological problem.

It would probably break the rules of confidentiality for employees at what is now known as the Up Center to divulge that information about their first client. And the exact nature of the need that was met is far less important than the fact that they met that need and many others in the year since opening the new office and changing their agency’s name.

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With a generous grant from the Obici Healthcare Foundation, the group set off on its own after a 125-year history with Child & Family Services. The new name reflected a new commitment to lifting people up by helping them to solve their problems. The new agency would focus on low- to moderate-income residents of Suffolk and Western Tidewater, as well as those without insurance, offering them low-cost mental health services.

It was a laudable plan, and by all accounts it is one that has met with success. Clinicians see about 200 patients a month, according to Mary Brantley, clinical services supervisor. Now, they’re looking to expand into new programs, especially one for young fathers. Such a class is desperately needed in a society in which fathers are younger and less likely to have had good male role models each year.

“Healthier people make a healthier community,” Brantley said recently. It’s hard to argue with such a statement. And it’s hard to argue with the Up Center’s success.