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Oct. 22, 2021

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Clark County businesses offer mental health services for workers

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
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A massage therapy room is also available for clients at The Vancouver Wellness Studio.
A massage therapy room is also available for clients at The Vancouver Wellness Studio. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Some Clark County companies are increasingly paying attention to their workers’ mental health, according to Kendall Hagensen, owner and clinical director at the Vancouver Wellness Studio, but the need for the services is greater than ever, she said.

Hagensen sees businesses and their employees dealing with some of the hardest days of the pandemic right now, she said. People are quitting in droves in many workplaces and the remaining employees are taking on the added duties, all while many companies are having trouble filling positions.

But there’s a toll on workers’ mental health that Hagensen is addressing through a new program from the Vancouver Wellness Studio and local nonprofit Dig Deep called the Corporate Mental Wellness Program, which is making mental wellness therapy more accessible for businesses’ employees.

Since the pandemic began, the Vancouver Wellness Studio, which offers mental health therapy, massage therapy, and acupuncture, has been growing in revenue and in employees to its current count of 12.

The company, at 800 Franklin St., created the Corporate Mental Wellness Program so employees can have access to mental health care. The partnership with the Dig Deep Foundation gives a percent of the proceeds to the nonprofit, Hagensen said, although the program has not secured its first client since the partnership began.

Mike Nieto, owner and founder of Catworks Construction and founder of Dig Deep, began offering mental health help to his employees about 10 years ago. It started with one employee who had relationship issues that caused co-workers to quit. Nieto gave the employee the phone number of a therapist, and months later, the employee said that he got help and was grateful.

Since then, Nieto has begun offering one year of mental health services as a benefit for employees working more than a year at his company.

“I’ve seen some amazing transformations in people’s lives,” he said. “It creates a better work environment.”

In 2017, he turned Dig Deep from a company program to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has helped more than 20 people with mental health issues.

A few weeks ago, Nieto lost his brother to suicide, so the value of spreading mental health services to workers became much more important, he said.

“During the pandemic, working became really challenging,” he said. “It took its toll financially. It changed how we were able to interact. People need to be connected.”

The Corporate Mental Wellness Program allows employees to select from three different services offered at a discount: massage, acupuncture and counseling, including trauma therapy.

Hagensen said that she’s worked with four businesses in the program, including Evergreen Home Loans, ControlTek and LSW Architects, and she expects that number to increase now that she’s partnered with Dig Deep. The program cost ranges from $416 to $494 per employee if it’s paid in full, but there’s also a monthly payment program.

A survey released on Sunday, on World Mental Health Day, stated that 57 percent of respondents said their mental health has degraded since the pandemic began. The survey, from The Conference Board, gathered responses from over 1,800 U.S. workers, and it found that work demands and the amount of work are the largest factors affecting mental health.

Steve Valenta, owner of Mighty Bowl, saw a need for mental health services for restaurant owners and operators, so he created a roundtable discussion group for restaurant leaders. Although the program ended a few months ago, a therapist volunteered time to work with the people struggling in the restaurant industry.

“I’m seeing a drastic need for mental health programs,” he said.

Valenta said he offers a mental health service to his employees through Providence, and he doesn’t know how many of them use the services for privacy reasons. But Valenta does see restaurant workers facing much more stress during the pandemic because of customers’ attitudes.

“Mental health: It’s the unspoken story. It’s such a big deal,” he said. “Everybody is having a hard time. The difference that’s taking place with food service workers is that they’re on the front line. They’re engaging with a high volume of people also going through a hard time.

“The margin that our customer base has is so much more narrow: Food is taking longer, there are longer lines or we’re making mistakes. Customers are less patient, more demanding and less understanding.”

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