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News / Health / Clark County Health

Children’s Center creates podcast to foster healthy conversations about mental illness

“Hope and Healing with Children’s Center” aims to reduce stigma around topic

By Chrissy Booker, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 15, 2024, 6:06am
5 Photos
Children&rsquo;s Center Executive Director Matthew Butte talks about the organization during a tour. The nonprofit is launching a podcast called &ldquo;Hope and Healing,&rdquo; hosted by Butte, that invites people to speak candidly about their experiences with mental illness.
Children’s Center Executive Director Matthew Butte talks about the organization during a tour. The nonprofit is launching a podcast called “Hope and Healing,” hosted by Butte, that invites people to speak candidly about their experiences with mental illness. (Photos by Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Children’s Center, a nonprofit that provides mental health care to youth in Clark County, is hoping to foster healthy conversations about mental health and reduce the stigma through its new podcast.

“Hope and Healing with Children’s Center,” hosted by Executive Director Matthew Butte, launched Wednesday and invites people from within the organization and beyond to speak candidly about their experiences with mental illness. The podcast will feature five episodes released weekly on the Spotify app, Apple Podcasts and YouTube Music. Butte hopes it can be a new platform for open and honest discussions about mental health.

According to Children’s Center’s website, 1 in 5 kids has a mental health disorder, but 20 percent aren’t getting proper treatment or care.

“When it came to the podcast, we asked, ‘How can we team up with folks in and beyond Clark County to get the word out about mental health?’” Butte said in an interview Tuesday. “There’s still a lot of stigma around mental health, but there’s less within the younger generation. Some things are still hard to say out loud, especially for adults.”

Jennie Hoheisel, co-producer and development coordinator for the Children’s Center, concurred.

“I think it’s amazing the younger generation has more knowledge, because for our generation, it was never spoken about,” Hoheisel said. “By bringing attention to it, we’re hoping people can be more accepting and community-minded.”

The first episode features author John Moe, a podcaster based out of St. Paul, Minn. Moe said he believes open conversations about mental illness are one of the best ways to beat the stigma. He said he also believes humor has a place within these conversations.

“As I grew older and my depression developed in middle school, I always kind of kept comedy close to my heart. It was so much more than entertainment to me. It was this legitimate kind of alternative universe that I could visit,” Moe said during the podcast episode.“To me, that’s where the hope is. That openness is something that we didn’t have when we were young, and my kids have now.”

Next Wednesday’s episode will feature poet Maggie Smith, who will discuss the healing power of poetry in relation to mental health. After that, Butte will talk to Ashley Hernandez and Sarah Stahl, two in-house therapists who work with young clients. They’ll discuss the challenges and rewards of working with youth at Children’s Center.

Addressing the need

For the past 30 years, Children’s Center, 13500 S.E. Seventh St., has served local youths ages 2-18. It provides outpatient services, telehealth appointments, individual and group therapy sessions, and more. Its partnership with the Evergreen, La Center, Vancouver and Battle Ground school districts allows for accessibility to mental health resources for teenagers and young adults, according to Butte.

School counselors will usually refer students to Children’s Center therapists, or a therapist will provide services on site. Therapists meet the patient’s parents, and insurance is billed regularly. Many patients are covered by Medicaid, but the center also accepts other kinds of insurance.

“The beauty of it is that it makes access to treatment so much easier,” Butte said. “But we recognize that some kids don’t want to be seen at schools, so they can also come here.”

Patients can participate in hands-on activities such as art therapy, which uses self-expression and creativity as a way to foster healing, according to Butte.

Last year, the organization saw 947 young people. During the pandemic, Children’s Center lost some of its clinical therapists, so the organization had to pivot — it now has 35 employees. While the nonprofit is proud to offer the services it does, Butte believes there is room for expansion in order to address the growing need for youth in Clark County.

“There’s definitely a need,” Butte said. “We did what we could with the resources we had during the pandemic, while also ensuring we were looking out for our staff. Our motive is let’s respond to this as best we can. Let’s hire more therapists and create more programs. It’s really important that we’re always asking, ‘What else can we do?’”

The first episode of “Hope and Healing with Children’s Center” is now available on the organization’s website at www.thechildrenscenter.org/podcast.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.