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Improving Health, Offering Opportunity, Creating Hope – Berks Counseling Center

Jul 30, 2018 • by SAMHSA Program to Achieve Wellness
The BCC Decision Support Center promotes intellectual wellness for individuals receiving services

Berks Counseling Center (BCC) is a recovery-oriented Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) that emphasizes wellness, trauma-informed care, and physical-behavioral health integration. For 40 years, BCC has offered a holistic wellness approach to a culturally and economically diverse population to help individuals with serious behavioral health disorders achieve healthy and productive lifestyles. Last year, BCC served over 2,778 individuals ages 3 and up with dual diagnosis, substance use, and mental health disorders through their clinical services. SAMHSA’s Program to Achieve Wellness is pleased to highlight BCC’s dedication to comprehensive, empowering, client-driven health and wellness programs.

The administration at BCC is committed to providing integrated care services to individuals in recovery from mental and/or substance use disorders who are underinsured, those who lack family supports, and those who have been involved with the criminal justice system or experienced homelessness. To accomplish this, a variety of programs are offered to the community by this CCBHC.

The range of services BCC provides in their community is wide. Many ideas for the innovative programs at BCC come from the diverse and talented staff, others from a specific need in the community. In collaboration with the Council on Chemical Abuse, BCC recently started Comprehensive Recovery Addictions Family Treatment (CRAFT) to address the needs of family members of individuals who are addicted to opioids. The developers of this evidence-based model of care have found that giving family members the tools to communicate effectively enhances recovery for the individual with a substance use disorder. The program, which is just beginning and is running on a one-year grant, has been successful in many communities. BCC is looking forward to full implementation of the model in Berks County. In addition, BCC offers school outreach programs in the Reading School District and Berks County Intermediate Unit (BCIU), and provides behavioral counseling through the Tulpehocken area school district. Their Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Program provides 24-hour care to youth aged 16-24 who experience mental illness, disabilities, or homelessness.

BCC has also increased services over the past year to women and young mothers in the community who are struggling with mental and/or substance use disorders. Knowing affordable housing remains a tremendous priority in the community, BCC is incredibly proud of their Transitional, Permanent, and Re-entry Housing Programs. This programming is immensely valuable, considering an estimated 26% of adults living in shelters experience serious mental illness.1 BCC provides counseling and outpatient therapy at the Berks County Prison and Re-Entry Center for individuals who are incarcerated and in recovery from substance use disorders. The treatment services, including outpatient and DUI therapy, and supportive care groups are tailored to the unique circumstances of the participants and cover a range of topics including family, vocational needs, physical wellness, loss/grief, and relapse prevention.

The culture at BCC is designed to empower those they serve. This includes the employment of Peer Support Specialists, who provided guidance and coaching to 765 clients in 2017. Another example of empowering those who use clinic programs is the application of Health Navigators, another peer program which helps individuals with chronic health conditions attend appointments, set SMART goals, or even visit the local YMCA for a workout.

These peer support programs are examples of an evidence-based model which have proven to be an effective way to engage individuals in long-lasting lifestyle changes.

For those who receive services at the clinic but are not employed as Peer Support Specialists or Health Navigators, there are still opportunities for empowerment and personal growth. The Decision Support Center was created to help increase health literacy and encourage individuals to become advocates for themselves. It houses a computer lab and videos for research and on-going learning, supporting the intellectual wellness of those who visit the Center.

BCC encourages participants to remember that wellness is a lifelong process that promotes healthy lifestyle habits that can improve quality of life. Health education and programs on various topics including tobacco-free living, women’s health issues, fitness and nutrition, and diabetes self-management are a few of the options offered at BCC. Complementary therapies such as Reiki, yoga, and mindfulness classes give individuals the opportunity to support their emotional and spiritual wellness, too.

For the future, BCC is focused on quality improvement, and using the data they are collecting to see what is and isn’t working for the individuals they serve. They regularly gather individual and family suggestions in an effort to continually improve programs, processes, and access to care.

We would like to thank Chris Axford and Rebecca Hartman at Berks Counseling Center for taking time to talk with the Program to Achieve Wellness about programs, achievements, and challenges. For more information about their work, please visit

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