Making childhood better: one child at a time
Did you know that one-in-four children in Bexar County suffers with mental health issues?
“An alarming number of children suffer from psychotic disorders due to bullying and other stressful situations,” said Jessica Knudsen, president and CEO of Clarity Child Guidance Center. “We’ve seen increased numbers of kids referred to us from the local school districts and even the San Antonio Police Department,”
Clarity Child Guidance Center is the region’s only nonprofit provider of mental health care exclusively for children and adolescents age 3-17. Knudsen is an experienced clinician who first noticed the sharp rise in mental health issues among poverty-stricken kids while teaching in various public schools. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of North Carolina and a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin.
“I really enjoyed teaching, but I found my calling when I started working as an inpatient therapist,” said Knudsen. She has been serving as the president and CEO of Clarity Child Guidance Center since February 2019.
Clarity’s 33,750 square-foot outpatient clinic opened its doors in 2016. It allows Clarity to consolidate its resources and provide more efficient care for its young patients. Children who receive treatment in Clarity’s hospital or day treatment center stay on the main campus for their continuum of care without going off-site to another facility.
Clarity has partnered with UT Health San Antonio for more than 20 years.
“Clarity is a complete treatment facility and UT Health San Antonio also has a huge role in our efforts in providing the most effective treatment for our patients,” said Knudsen. “We have six residents from UT Health San Antonio who actively participate in clinical rotations here. These residents work with our staff psychiatrists and nurse practitioners. It’s a perfect example of how our partnership with UT Health San Antonio has made a huge difference in helping children in our community.”
Last year alone, Clarity Child Guidance Center treated more than 7,000 kids, including 2,500 children on an inpatient basis. “We never question the parent’s ability to pay for the treatment of their child at Clarity Child Guidance Center. Our goal is that children and adolescent patients are saved before a crisis takes place where they can hurt themselves or their loved ones. It’s our goal to ensure safety for all our patients, and help them through proper treatment and continued outpatient therapy,” Knudsen said.
The 8-acre Clarity facility has 66 inpatient beds, playground, gymnasium and cafeteria, as well as a pool so that the patients can experience a childhood that’s free of the burdens and rigors that come with mental health issues.
“We encourage everyone to take a tour of the facility,” Knudsen said. “The center has various volunteer programs for those interested. One of those programs is called ‘Food for the Soul,’ an event where local volunteer groups make delicious and nutritious meals for patients.Eating great food and interacting with volunteers brings out a smile with everyone involved. It helps kids enjoy being kids again.”
Clarity also actively educates the local community on the rising number of behavioral disorders in children and promotes mental health awareness among adolescents.
“Parents and teachers may not realize or distinguish a difference between mental health and behavioral issues,” Knudsen said. “It can be very frustrating and a treatment facility is the last place that comes to parent’s minds. That’s why education on child mental health is an important part of our organization’s efforts. We want to make sure that we are here to help when parents run out of ideas since there is a limited number of child-focused mental health treatment facilities in South Texas.”
Knudsen knows how fragile a child’s mind can be. “Mental health issues in children know no socio-economic boundaries. We see a broad spectrum of patients within our community. And it usually takes parents by surprise, since many parents are ill-prepared for such dire situations,” she said.
Clarity Child Guidance Center and UT Health San Antonio have been serving as a beacon of hope for children with mental health issues for several decades. Visit www.claritycgc.org if you would like to volunteer or donate towards the effort of making lives better for children of Bexar County.