Family Life Center now placing more emphasis on serving young Counseling facility turns 25 next year

September 25, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF

After almost 25 years of serving Columbia, the Family Life Center continues to change with the times -- lately by focusing more of the center's programs on the increasing number of depressed young people walking through its doors.

"It's a tougher world," said the center's director, Carol Lois Holmquist, referring to how young people are faced with drugs, sex and violence at a much younger age today. "We're seeing more kids with depression."

Appointed in November, Holmquist, 47, officially took over the director's reins of the private, nonprofit mental health center in Wilde Lake Village Green in January.

The Baltimore resident replaced longtime director Jane Walker, who left last year to spend more time with the Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health, a national organization she founded and heads in Alexandria, Va.

Holmquist, now having logged eight months in her position, has identified several areas that she wants the center to address -- among them providing more services to children and adolescents.

She said the number of children being served has grown to about 20 percent of the center's clientele. Because of this, the center has had to bring in more child therapists.

The staff also is looking at ways to offer more programs to women. A women's conference, co-sponsored by the Family Life Center and Howard Community College, will be held Nov. 8 at the Columbia Inn. The topic is "Gender Stereotyping: The Impact of Societal and Cultural Influences on Women's Development."

In August, the center started lunch-time parenting programs at various employers, including the Columbia Association and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. The Columbia Foundation provided the center with a $5,000 grant to pay for the program.

The center, which operates on an annual budget of $500,000, has added services outside Columbia. This month, it started providing counseling services at the Innwood Wellness Center on Route 97 in Glenwood and the Chatham Wellness Center in the Chatham Mall in Ellicott City. Next month, it will offer group therapy sessions at these same centers.

"I believe we have made a good start at continuing to make the organization efficient and expand its services," Holmquist said.

Unlike her predecessor, Holmquist's background doesn't include therapy work. "What I do isn't clinical here," Holmquist said. "I'm not a therapist. I do administrative management and fund-raising."

Holmquist received a bachelor's degree in English from George Mason University in 1970. She also taught high school English literature and went to the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.

She has worked for the Lutheran Church and was the first executive director of Health Education Advocacy Life in Baltimore, an ecumenical nonprofit organization serving the inner city. She also was chief executive officer for the Easter Seals Society of Maryland Inc.

A group of mental health professionals established the Family Life Center in 1972 to improve the mental health of individuals and families by providing quality services at affordable rates. It will turn 25 next year.

The center's staff performs about 6,000 hours of individual and family counseling and 1,500 hours of group work every year, Holmquist said. Each year, about 600 families are served by the center, which has about 11 full-time and part-time staffers and 25 mental health professionals on contract.

Leaders in the community value the center. "We're pleased that they're available to provide services to people on a sliding fee," said Manus O'Donnell, director of the Howard County Department of Citizen Services.

O'Donnell said the center had one of the first AIDS support groups in Howard and has been "a stimulus for additional services in the county."

Citizen Services provided a $76,000 grant to the Family Life Center this year.

Most of the center's funds come from federal and local grants and fund-raisers, Holmquist said. One of her challenges will be to find support as more nonprofit groups compete for shrinking funds. "That gets harder and harder every year," she said.

Pub Date: 9/25/96

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