Contract agencies that failed to reach goals still got lucrative WeHo grants

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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.”

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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. 

 

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Joshua88
Joshua88
1 month ago

Mayor Shyne ‘thought the flyer had gone through the proper city approval channels.’

The city attorney said Maple bypassed the City on that promotion,

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago

There are a few points that we should be investigating. First, of course, is the contracting system in West Hollywood that holds no contract to account. We spend money like drunken sailors on shore leave and it often ends up with a hangover for which no one feels regret. The other part of this story is Sepi Shyne’s utter misrepresentation of the program on her social media and in support of her campaign for Congress. She lied. Nothing new.

david
david
1 month ago

Another example of West Hollywood Government not vetting the business
partner’s properly and deceiving the public without giving all the pertinent information and statistics to it’s constituents.

SeeMe
SeeMe
1 month ago

10 sessions of therapy seldom leads to significant improvement for a client unless they are working through a specific life change (e.g. a breakup, grief). I don’t see those outcomes as a failure but rather par for the course ; however, if they did inspire just one person to find another affordable resource and continue with therapy beyond 10 sessions then that would be a success to me. Additionally, it is not uncommon for clinics such as the Maple Center to exempt substance abuse and eating disorders from their services, as they those are specialized areas of focus. Hopefully, they… Read more »

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  SeeMe

Sometimes they do. I practice family law and sometimes a couple of sessions can open up new points of view to make people more empathetic and willing to view issues from other vantage points. Everyone is different. Grief, substance abuse and other issues can be more challenging but sometimes ten sessions can be a start on a new path.

Advocacy
Advocacy
1 month ago

Interesting that Sepi Shyne advocated for Maple Counseling but apparently neglected to inform likely candidates of the details in possibly incurring greater charges. Secondly, was SS advocating from a position of personal experience or is there more to this advocacy?

West
West
1 month ago

I attempted to access Maple Counseling services and paid the $35 enrollment fee, however they couldn’t honor my request that the sessions NOT by audio recorded for review by their senior staff. As a political activist, that was off the table. In my years as a service provider myself, I found their policy to be rather unusual.

SeeMe
SeeMe
1 month ago
Reply to  West

I’m sorry that was their policy, as you absolutely should not be penalized for refusing consent, especially without establishing a safe rapport with the counselor beforehand. It’s not unusual for supervisors of non-licensed therapists to request this, but at the end of the day, the client always has a right to decline.

West
West
1 month ago
Reply to  SeeMe

Yes it’s understandable considering the therapists are MSW students. Management insisted on audio recording although the intake person hoped written notes might suffice. I’ve worked in related fields and unfortunately breaches of confidentiality are common despite HIPAA. Knowing Sepi was involved with the org’s grant didn’t inspire confidence, given her history of having me expelled two years ago from another coalition I co-founded that was also reliant on a City grant. Thanks for your concern and God bless

Last edited 1 month ago by West
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