Cornerstone services in jeopardy

Counseling center has served the Mountain Area for nearly 10 years

Community CorrespondentOctober 15, 2013 

"Parents still love even if they are divorced," reads one handwritten poster on the wall of Jolinda Thomas' office at Cornerstone Family Counseling Services which has served the Mountain Area for nearly 10 years. However, due to changes in the practices of insurance companies, these services are in jeopardy.

The clinic was using a billing service, but due to personnel changes had to return to doing the insurance company billing themselves.

"The time, sometimes a two-hour block, and energy needed to see that just one client's insurance company pays for services received, takes away from time that counselors can be helping clients find the tools that will allow them to get their power back," Thomas said.

Thomas, who serves as the director of the non-profit organization, along with 16-20 other professionals, provides services including individual, marriage, and family counseling at the clinic at 49370 Crane Valley Road (426), Suite B.

"People like to come here," Thomas said. "They get treated fairly and respectfully. We need people to understand what we're doing here. We help unplug conflicts." Cornerstone has a presence in every school in Eastern Madera County. There have been times of crisis when all of the counselors have dropped their current workloads to respond to a crisis on a campus helping students and staff cope with that situation, whether it be a death or some other crisis.

The homey, safe environment that the Cornerstone clinic offers is evident from the time the door opens. There are traditional board games stacked in one area, there's a large dollhouse in another. There are comfortable chairs and couches lending to that atmosphere.

"Things that hurt ... drug abuse, a lot of gossip, sexual abuse, being called awful names, being ignored, scary memories, being bullied and hit," are the words on another poster in Thomas' office. These posters give insight into the type of help Cornerstone provides children and adults alike.

The clinic provides professional supervised children's visitation services so that visits between non-custodial parents and children can take place locally without a trip to Fresno where these services would otherwise have to be sought.

Cornerstone Family counseling is an advocate for services for Eastern Madera County and to insure the Mountain Area get its share of county services, Thomas serves on the Interagency Child and Youth Services Council and on the Child Death Review Board.

"We make sure people get a voice up here," Thomas said.

Parenting skills and tools, marriage counseling, the needs of at-risk teens, and help with abuse issues are the four areas identified by Thomas as those with the biggest need in the area.

In addition to schools, Cornerstone contracts with the California Victim Compensation Program, local churches, Madera County probation and parole, the Boys and Girls Club, local doctors' offices, Madera Family Court Services, the county Department of Social Services, and child and adult protective services.

This non-profit clinic is seeking the support of area residents, organizations and businesses in the form of monetary donations, fundraising ideas and people to organize those fundraising projects. There are also two vacancies on Cornerstone's board of directors as two local business people have had to leave the board. These board members ideally would have experience with mental health issues as well as business/financial expertise. The board meets quarterly for two hours.

Details: Jolinda Thomas, (559) 641-6321.

An alternative to Cornerstone is Madera County Behavioral Health Services, which offers mental health and substance abuse counseling to young children, adolescents, men and women.

A unique component to Behavioral Health is the Mountain Wellness Center, a prevention program offered to Mountain Area residents. It is open to the public 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, at no cost. This is an adults-only service for those 18 years or older. Activities include education classes, arts and crafts and fieldtrips.

This program focuses on helping individuals and families keeping their mental health strong and resilient. There is a food pantry, and laundry access for those with limited resources and skills.

Details: (559) 683-4809.

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