With the possible dismantling of the Affordable Care Act constantly looming, many Americans are worried about their own ability to thrive. Even in its current state, there is a population of people whose income is over the threshold necessary to qualify for Medi-Cal but too low to afford an individual plan. In these cases, trauma victims and those suffering from various mental ailments are having difficulty receiving treatment and the help they need. Without insurance, a visit to a licensed medical and family therapist (LMFT) can cost upwards of $300, making self-care unattainable for some of individuals.
After witnessing her sister suffer through a series of abusive relationships, Deborah Licurse knew she wanted to specifically help those who have been affected by domestic violence. While working at an agency that provided domestic and family violence intervention programs for youth who were court-mandated into treatment for domestic or family violence, Licurse noticed there were no education programs around teen dating violence. It was this realization that served as the impetus for her to start her non-profit organization, Peace-it-Together (PIT), which, in addition to providing services for court-mandated therapy, serves the community by offering affordable mental health care to the public.
Some of PIT’s clinical services are contracted through Santa Clara County. Through its programs, individuals work on identifying and changing beliefs that support abusive lifestyles.
In the Teen Domestic and Family Violence Intervention Program, Licurse and her team help youth minimize their denying, blaming and behavior rationalizations that hinder them from becoming accountable.
“The majority of our perpetrating youth that comes through our door are also victims of witnessing domestic violence … so we are a trauma-focused counseling center,” Licurse said adding that a study out of San Jose State University found that 71 percent of juveniles who abuse are also victims of one or more traumas. Upon completion of the 26-week program, youth are given 25 free counseling sessions to reinforce their newly developed skills.
Another one of PIT’s programs for individuals who are court-mandated to therapy is focused on teaching parents in high-conflict custody disputes to properly co- or parallel parent, giving the feuding former couple the skills needed to foster mutual respect and a healthy family lifestyle. Additional PIT programs include a Teen Dating Violence Prevention Program and Sexual Offender and Sexual Abuse Treatment Program.
On the clinical side of the non-profit’s services, individuals in need of psychotherapy can receive sessions through the organization. Although PIT’s therapists are trained in trauma therapy, the organization sees clients suffering from a myriad of maladies ranging from depression and anxiety to school and work stress, parenting issues and health problems.
“As marriage and family therapists, the focus is always on relationships with other people,” Licurse said. “That’s our scope … It doesn’t have to be trauma, but often many of our clients end up having some type of trauma.”
Licurse said she doesn’t want price to preclude anyone from reaching out for help, as the cost for counseling services is based on a sliding scale and will not be outside of an individual’s budget.
“We really want to provide affordable mental healthcare for people who cannot afford mental healthcare and we are very flexible,” she said. “That’s a really key mission for us.”
Licurse said she is currently working on making PIT an evidence-based program by writing grants to obtain the funds necessary to do so. She would also like to offer telemedicine in the near future and wants to expand PIT’s services to include the senior population and their caregivers, but admits funding has hindered the organization’s ability to grow and perform more outreach.
“I think we have really solid programs … but funding is our biggest obstacle to growth,” she said, adding that because the organization is small, it has been difficult to let people know they can receive “affordable, inexpensive healthcare” at PIT. “I so desperately want people to know that and it’s been a real challenge getting that message out.”
Peace-It-Together, located inside the historic Keily House on the corner of Winchester Boulevard and Homestead Road in Santa Clara, is holding a fundraiser–a casino night/poker tournament–on Wed., Oct. 4 at the Silicon Valley Capital Club in San Jose. Licurse said she’s currently looking for corporate and individual sponsorships. More information on tickets, sponsorships and the organization can be found at www.peace-it-together.org.