Family Service Center dedicated to fighting a worrisome set of COVID statistics

  • Renee Dominguez is the executive director of the Family Service Center in Wilmette, a nonprofit agency that provides counseling on a subsidized fee scale dependent on the client's ability to pay.

      Renee Dominguez is the executive director of the Family Service Center in Wilmette, a nonprofit agency that provides counseling on a subsidized fee scale dependent on the client's ability to pay. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Renee Dominguez is the executive director of the Family Service Center in Wilmette, a nonprofit agency that provides counseling on a subsidized fee scale dependent on the client's ability to pay.

      Renee Dominguez is the executive director of the Family Service Center in Wilmette, a nonprofit agency that provides counseling on a subsidized fee scale dependent on the client's ability to pay. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Renee Dominguez is the executive director of the Family Service Center in Wilmette, a nonprofit agency that provides counseling on a subsidized fee scale dependent on the client's ability to pay.

      Renee Dominguez is the executive director of the Family Service Center in Wilmette, a nonprofit agency that provides counseling on a subsidized fee scale dependent on the client's ability to pay. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/25/2020 6:30 AM
Editor's note: As Giving Tuesday approaches next week, there’s something you should know: There’s never been a better year for charitable donations. The CARES Act — the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security Act — passed by Congress in March gives additional tax incentives to donors, according to schwabcharitable.org. Because of that, and also because this traditionally is the time nonprofit organizations are working hard on year-end giving campaigns, we’ve profiled three organizations that serve the Glenview and Northbrook area: Family Service Center, Jewish United Fund, and the North Suburban YMCA. You can learn about what they do and where your donations go, as well as what their needs are and how they - and other nonprofits - have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Renee Dominguez can rattle off the statistics all day long.

She's a licensed clinical psychologist and the executive director of Family Service Center in Wilmette, a nonprofit mental health agency that counsels people of all ages on a variety of issues.

 

Founded in 1913, FSC serves Glenview, Northbrook, Kenilworth and Wilmette, and New Trier and Northfield Township residents.

There's a lot of counseling and serving to be done these days.

"I think that, right now, there is a great deal of anxiety related to COVID, related to a contentious, divisive election year, related to social injustice issues," Dr. Dominguez said.

"It's kind of real widespread, and it's come to a head. We've gotten many more referrals, and we know these issues are taking a toll on people's mental health."

Our collective mental state wasn't great before 2020 turned nightmarish. And big trouble, health issues, have progressively struck earlier ages.

Dominguez cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stats that, before 2020, around 4.4 million children 3-17 were diagnosed with anxiety, 6.1 million with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and 1.9 million with depression. From 2007-2015 suicides by 12- to 14-year-old boys and girls increased two and three times, respectively.

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This has only worsened, across the board.

Dominguez pointed out a Harris Poll from June that found 70% of teenagers reported they were struggling with mental issues in the wake of COVID-19.

The CDC said more than 40% of adults surveyed in June reported at least one adverse mental health or behavioral issue. Anxiety rates were three times higher than in the second quarter of 2019, depression rates four times higher.

Scariest of all, when adults were asked if they'd seriously considered suicide in just the last 30 days, more than 10% said they had. For all of 2019 that number was 4%.

"Astounding," Dr. Dominguez said.

Suffice to say Family Service Center's annual fund drive, which continues through the end of the year, couldn't come at a more meaningful time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Forty-five percent of our budget comes through donations. So we are able to provide these services to people who otherwise might not be able to afford them because we have support from the community," Dominguez said.

Actually, the FSC Web page about the fund drive says 50% of operations are funded by donations and grants. This helps the nonprofit's staff of psychologists, counselors and social workers provide care on a subsidized fee scale depending on a client's ability to pay.

The combination of COVID's toll on mental health and finances, with possible loss of job and insurance, puts people between a rock and a hard place.

"These are people who are really primed for mental health support and they can't pay for it," said Dominguez -- who, as an aside, is a mother of four and a marathoner who played soccer at Southern Methodist University.

A need for subsidized service in the North Shore?

Yep. Dominguez said that over 2011-16, there were more than 16,000 people living at low-income levels in the Family Service Center coverage area.

Support to FSC goes right back into the community.

FSC closed for in-person services March 16 but promptly flipped to teletherapy, treating people virtually in accordance to HIPAA patient privacy standards.

Since fiscal year 2020 began, FSC staff has made more than 35 presentations to the public as varied as the Glenview Chamber of Commerce, the Glenview-Northbrook Coalition for Youth, and the Am Yisrael Conservative Congregation in Northfield. They've addressed parents and staff members in schools ranging from Northbrook's Gertrude B. Nielsen Child Care and Learning Center to Loyola Academy in Wilmette.

Family Service Center has paired with Glenview School District 34's ParentConnect group for the past three years. Before school started this fall FSC delivered webinars to the 800 staff members of Glenbrook High Schools District 225.

A lot of this work involves "supporting parents to be present to support kids' mental health," Dominguez said.

"If you provide this early on in the process, in my opinion -- and there's some data toward this -- when you support parents in their role that translates into improved parent-child relationships and healthier children," she said.

Family Service Center encourages people to reach for help by calling (847) 251-7350. To learn more about FSC's Annual Fund Drive, text "FSChelps" to 41444 or type igfn.us/e/iSi9Sw into an internet browser. People may also mail donations to FSC, 3545 Lake Ave., Ste. 200, Wilmette, IL 60091.

"We've been really fortunate to receive so much support from the community to be able to deliver these really important services," Dr. Dominguez said. "I would call them essential services."

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