NEWORLEANS- It's a part of the health care system that is underfunded, so patient needs can get overlooked.

One in four people in the U.S. deals with some sort of mental illness. And in this area, resources are few.

One local center is healing clients, but their numbers are growing.

The big incidents make headlines, but experts say, the real issue gets buried.

'With all of these big national shootings that have happened, we just keep dancing around the big elephant in the room which is mental illness,' said Cecile Tebo, a licensed clinical social worker.

Tebo is also a mental crisis expert, and she says the New Orleans Police Department is taking steps to address the growing problem. She just finished mental health training with new recruits, field training that's been increased from four to 16 hours of instruction.

'So when the police encounter a person with this disability, they'll have sort of an immediate recognition of it because then your intervention is remarkably different,' said Tebo.

But away from sensational headlines, she's concerned for everyday people.

'And as far as our Medicaid rates here in Louisiana, the decision was made to put mental illness at the lowest tier along with pediatrics. So as far as reimbursement rates for Medicaid, we're at the lowest possible tier, so you're not going to have as many providers. You're not going to have as many beds,' Tebo explained.

That's where Trinity Counseling and Training Center comes in. Professional counselors train graduate students and they all counsel anyone for a low, sliding scale fee.

In the last year or so, the counselors say that not only are the number of people needing help going up, but also the severity of the problems they're coming in for.

'We're seeing a lot of clients come in with depression and anxiety, and behind that is a lot of trauma, whether it's sexual abuse or child abuse or physical abuse. But the amount of trauma cases that we've seen is increased probably by 30 to 40 percent over the last two or three years,' said John Shalett, a licensed clinical social worker and marriage and family therapist, the center's executive director.

The counselors help children, teens, families, couples and marriages.

'The three primary issues are money, religion and power deferential.' said Shalett about couples with broken relationships. 'I think that there are folks that have fallen out of either love with one another. I think people are looking for greater compatibility and intimacy, not necessarily sexual, but just intimacy to be able to talk with one another and be friends.'

'At a time when so many people are struggling alone, all I can do is encourage people just to simply take the hand. Make the phone call. Folks don't have to take this journey alone,' stressed Tebo.

For an appointment call Trinity Counseling and Training Center at 504-522-7557. The center also needs your help. Thursday night at the annual fundraiser dinner, auction and party is from 6:30-9:30, starting with a patron party. It will be in two private Garden District homes. Call the center to purchase tickets. Two local people affiliated with the center will also be honored.

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