Opening PCC's doors to the public

Counseling center treats clients with respect


Counseling is the second word in its name and the most important function the Peninsula Counseling Center serves.

From the time the mental health treatment center opens its doors at 9 a.m. and closes them at 9 p.m., (5 p.m. on Fridays), the administrators, therapists and receptionists have helped approximately 205 clients each day.

What exactly transpires in PCC’s Valley Stream building is protected by medical privacy laws, but a few staff members gave the Herald a glimpse into what they do on a daily basis.

Referrals from doctors and schools, along with hospital discharges and walk-ins, are how clients — adults and children — come to PCC, said Associate Director Lois Goldsmith, who oversees the clinical aspects of the center. There are scheduled appointments, but if a client is “in crisis” they are seen immediately, Goldsmith said.

“We do an intake and a first disposition. That is the best way to assess the client’s needs,” Goldsmith said. An intake coordinator interviews the client, then the clinicians hold a disposition meeting, where treatment decisions are made.

Collaborative thinking shapes those decisions, which creates a sense of teamwork and helps both the client and the clinicians. “It helps tremendously getting what needs to be assessed to get the client what he or she needs,” Ernie Dixon, PCC’s Adult Unit administrator, said about the disposition meetings. Throughout the day, clients meet with therapists individually and in group sessions depending on the course of treatment.

The Meeting Place, a pre-vocational and drop-in program, seeks to get clients prepared to work and develops their social skills through an array of educational services and computer and clerical training. “‘Everyone can have a productive life’ is the message we convey,” said Meeting Place Director Helene Goldberg.

For a portion of the clients being treated, overcoming an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol is the major initial step in moving toward that productive life. PCC’s Chemical Dependency Treatment program offers a variety of services that includes communication and reporting with external agencies, random urine toxicology and breathalyzer tests. “We try to give our clients a sense of hope,” said program Director Meryl Camer.

Some of that hope actually begins when clients first walk in for their appointments and are greeted by PCC’s receptionist staff. Treating clients with respect becomes part and parcel of the care PCC provides on a daily basis. With appointments scheduled hourly, what Dixon called the “ebb and flow” can become hectic as clients, and in some cases families, enter and exit the second-floor waiting area. “The receptionists calm people,” Camer said.

“It does makes a difference,” Dixon added. “There is a certain decorum.”

That positive behavior extends into caring for those adults and children who are receiving treatment. And though they deal with serious issues daily, it helps, Camer said to have sense of humor. “Clients get upset about the exit survey,” she said, “but then they say the treatment ‘helped me a lot, I learned a lot about addiction.’“

Goldsmith said that a good day at PCC is one where problems arise, but the solutions work. “For me,” she said, “it is somebody we were really worried about and the situation resolved itself or we put something in place and the plan achieved the goal.”