Alejandro Rosario has suffered from anxiety his entire life. For years, his parents struggled to find their son help, until their pediatrician, a community partner with George Mason University’s Center for Psychological Services (GMU CPS), pointed them in the right direction last summer.
“[CPS Counselors AmySue Hansen, Jason Feinberg and Paige Trojanowski] helped me control my anxiety in great ways,” said Alejandro, a 15-year old from Clifton, to an audience at the third annual CPS fundraiser. “Now I can interact with people better in the real world, just because of the services this center has given me.”
The fundraiser and auction was held April 6 at the Fair Oaks Marriott in Fairfax, with the hotel donating the costs of the space, food, and audiovisual equipment. Community members and local companies donated 32 items for the silent and live auctions, ranging from entertainment and gift cards to food baskets and leisure activities.
Together, the audience and sponsors raised almost $27,000 for GMU CPS in a single night, topping last year’s total of $15,000.
“The Center for Psychological Services is the main training clinic for the doctoral students in clinical psychology at George Mason,” said GMU CPS director Dr. Robyn Mehlenbeck. “However, our mission is not only to train these students, but really to serve our community.”
Part of Mason’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the GMU CPS clinic sits just off of the main campus in Old Town Fairfax, giving masters and doctoral students a place to learn and master their craft. The sliding scale fee structure it offers is at the heart of making this a center for the entire community
“Here someone can get a state-of-the-art therapy session, based on the research, for ten dollars. In one situation, we had a special case where we charged three dollars,” said Dr. Mehlenbeck. “We’re going to make sure that everyone who needs services, gets them.”
This commitment is possible, in part, thanks to private donations.
“Before we joined [GMU CPS], we had searched for others,” said Gina Rosario, Alejandro’s mother. “We found out that they were very costly. Mostly they were not covered by insurance, and if they were covered, it was like a third of the cost. So we always ended up with a sensation that we were inadequate—that we could not provide for our child.”
Last year, thanks to previous funding, Dr. Mehlenbeck and her team were able to eliminate caps on the number of lower income clients they took in, putting everyone on an equal waiting list.
Her goal this year? Eliminate the wait list. That way, the center will be able to help more people like Alejandro, or veterans like Patti Richardson, another GMU CPS client who told her story at the event.
“As a veteran, there were some traumatic events that occurred in the 70s during my tour of duty,” said Richardson. “Still grateful for having served in the military, and primarily coming from a family of overachievers, I put aside those events and remained resilient to make a life for myself.”
But those unaddressed issues eventually bubbled to the surface, causing Richardson to resign from her position with New York State Social Services. She began a five-year period of homelessness and drug abuse.
“I reached out to the Veteran’s Administration and they connected me with the psychological program here at George Mason University. With the gift of desperation—and it was a gift—I welcomed the opportunity and the possibility that these issues be laid to rest,” said Richardson. “The Center for Psychological Services gave me hope that this is the start of my recovery, to get healthy and to stay healthy.”
“As I continue with the GMU psychological program, I’m hopeful,” Richardson concluded. “I’m forever grateful to George Mason University and all who support the psychological program for giving me the opportunity to live and not die, and I mean that. I thank each and everyone one of you.”
April 19, 2019 / Christopher Bobo