Two of the three West Hollywood social service contractors that were awarded 2023-24 development grant funding were simultaneously named as contractors who had underperformed in meeting their own goals last year in reports presented Tuesday to the Human Services Commission.
One contractor — Maple Counseling — admitted that 92% of all its WeHo patients last year exhibited “no reliable change” in their mental condition.
WeHo’s Human Services Division chose three of the 24 agencies which perform services for the city to split $25,000 in budgeted grant funds to help them continue and improve their operations.
Maple Counseling — which is charged with providing free and low-cost counseling, group support and psychiatry to adults and children — was awarded $5,100 to hire a consultant to instruct its counselors in dealing with traumas facing the LGBQIA+ community and in working with survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Being Alive — contracted to provide residents living with HIV/AIDS with mental health therapy, emotional support groups, treatment education, prevention, advocacy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and ADAP/OA HIPP enrollment help — received $9,900 to hire a consultant to “increase understanding of roles and responsibilities in governance, provide succession planning, and develop an agency three-to-five-year strategic plan.”
Both organizations, however, also landed in the Human Services Division’s list of agencies that “experienced challenges toward achieving goals in one or more key service categories.” Being Alive provided only 32 new patients with one-on-one counseling (67% of its goal), and only 217 community members came to its support groups (68% of its goal). Maple Counseling provided only 41 new people with counseling (54% of its goal) and held only 384 total sessions (51% of its goal).
Neither agency’s development grant will directly address those shortfalls.
In its annual self-evaluation, Being Alive reported many triumphs, including exceeding its goal of having 90% of patients virally suppressed.
But Maple Counseling revealed in its evaluation that it had not even met its main goal of having 33% of its patients exhibit “reliable improvement” — only 8% did so. The goal is listed as the “outcome objective” on the $50,000 contract Maple Counseling signed with the city on Aug. 24, 2022.
Last May, Mayor Sepi Shyne promoted Maple Counseling’s services on local media and in a flyer distributed on both the city’s and her own social media accounts inviting all who live or work in West Hollywood, including homeless people, to take advantage of 10 free virtual or in-person therapy sessions. The offer was valid year-round.
“I go to therapy myself and I’m proud to say that,” Shyne told NBC News last year. “If everyone has access to therapy, it’ll prevent a lot of preventable issues down the road. As a person of color, I know that most communities of color don’t even want to talk about mental health. It’s just, ‘You’re fine. You don’t need it. You’re crazy.’ The reality is mental health care is essential for everyone. It’s a calming, crucial process sought by people worldwide.”
But the services were not entirely free. Maple Counseling required all new patients to pay a $35 fee for an intake before receiving the free sessions.
Maple Counseling CEO Varina Bleil told NBC, “Come to us if you’re in crisis, but also if you just want to remain the best version of you. It’s a really smart, savvy thing to do to find an expert who’s in your corner and guiding you through major choices in your life.”
But the advertised free services were not made available to many potential patients in crisis.
The program excluded all patients suffering from substance abuse issues and eating disorders, those at higher risk of harming themselves or others, and those involved in domestic abuse situations. People seeking Maple’s help for those issues would be charged up to $100 per session based on their income. And all the counselors in the program were graduate students in training.