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Ribbon cutting celebrates Gerard’s growth in outpatient services

Monday afternoon was the ribbon cutting ceremony for Gerard Community Mental Health Services’ newly renovated office spaces. What used to be a small building meant for storage turned into additional offices for clinical therapists that will contribute to the expansion of Gerard’s outpatient services.

Elaine Hansen, Austin Area Chamber of Commerce president, opened up the event with remarks that welcomed Gerard Academy’s continuing efforts to provide a safe space for those in need of receiving mental health services.

“We appreciate what Gerard has brought to the community with its services and meeting the need,” Hansen said. “Those needs aren’t just for kids, but for people of all ages.”

Julie Peters, director of outpatient services at Gerard, prepares to cut the ribbon during a ceremonious opening of the new office spaces at Gerard Community Mental Health Services. The Austin Area Chamber of Commerce ambassadors also helped with the hosting of the event. Hannah Yang/hannah.yang@austindailyherald.com

The need for spaces was for the growing staff at outpatient services, which aims to help address the mental health needs of the community in Austin and in Mower County. From originally starting with one full-time clinical therapist, it has now grown into a budding staff of five full-time clinical therapists and two intern

Within just this year alone, Gerard received triple the amount of referrals for people in need of counseling or therapy, according to a previous story.

Karen Wolfe, executive director at Gerard, expressed her gratitude for the support Gerard received from all around the Austin community for the mission that the outpatient services provides for those in the public suffering from a mental health illness.

“There was a lot of stigma surrounding mental health,” Wolfe said. “It came with a lot of stigma. Everyone knows someone who has struggled with mental health at some point in their life. It’s nice having these conversations and seeing those conversations changing. We are grateful to Austin for addressing the needs for mental health services.”

Cynthia Hernandez, a senior clinical therapist at Gerard Community Mental Health Services, excitedly shows the newly renovated office building during the ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday afternoon. Hannah Yang/hannah.yang@austindailyherald.com

A ribbon cutting was held by chamber ambassadors, and tours inside the renovated office space allowed the community to get a glimpse into where the qualified mental health care professionals work in improving the lives of those who are struggling.

Those who utilize the new office spaces were especially excited at the renovated building, including Cynthia Hernandez, a senior clinical therapist who has worked at Gerard for 13 years. She opened up the door to her new office, where she will be able to work with clients in their mental health needs.

“This is very exciting,” Hernandez said. “Gerard is growing with staff, and now the space is growing with the staff too. It’s exciting to see Gerard grow and continuing to improve the services and meet the need for community mental health services. Everyday is a learning experience.”