RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) — Experts say that in the past two years, the need for mental health care has risen significantly. Local providers are working hard to address a growing demand to support those in need.

Local experts say that the pandemic impacted people’s lives in many ways, increasing the need for mental health support.

“…from relapse and drug use and the grief and the things that we’ve all experienced. The need for care – I’ve seen definitely increase,” said Stephen Martell, clinical director of Serenity Health Services.

Serenity Behavioral Health Systems in Augusta offers comprehensive mental health services for residents in the state of Georgia. They are open from 8 am to 5 pm. 

Dr. Richard Camino-Gaztambide is a psychiatrist and training director of psychiatry and the general residency program at Augusta University and the Medical College of Georgia. One way they are addressing the need is through free mental health services for the community one Tuesday each month. 

“Right now, we’re seeing about ten patients per month. But we have about 150 patients from June to now come to the clinic wanting to receive services from us,” said Dr. Camino-Gaztambide.

Still, the need to remove barriers to mental health services is great. Dr. Camino-Gaztambide noted that Georgia ranks 43rd out of 50 in mental health access. 

“Access to care worsens and problems in the area of mental health,” said Dr. Carmino-Gaztambide. “So, we felt that we had a commitment to those that are uninsured.”

The Salvation Army of Augusta also helps provide mental health services through partnership with Serenity Behavioral Health Services. Together, they provide them with counseling as well their means of transportation to and from treatment.

“A lot of times people just need, you know, a leg up. They need somebody to talk to. Somebody to help build confidence to help them take the steps that are needed,” said Chris Bailey of The Salvation Army.

If you or anyone you know needs mental health services, you can find resources in Georgia at dbhdd.georgia.gov, or by calling 1-800-715-4225. The national suicide and crisis hotline is also available 24/7 at 988.