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Man on a mission: Walter seeks to bridge gap between those in need and mental health professionals

Corsicana Daily Sun - 1/20/2019

Jan. 20--As a child, Ricky Walter struggled with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and dyslexia.

He said very little was known about mental health at the time and he struggled with depression.

"The other kids would make fun of me in school when the family resource teacher would pull me out of class," he said.

Walter said he had to find ways to adapt and regulate his own life and that started his journey to figure out what was wrong with him.

"I realized there was nothing wrong with me," he said. "It was just my normal, we had to find ways as a family to deal with it."

Walter is now a national board certified licensed professional counselor and chemical dependency counselor. He earned advanced degrees in counseling and is working to graduate with his doctorate this semester.

"I wanted to come back home and meet a need that I was very aware of," he said. "Which is people who are not able to access mental health services especially in rural communities. Not only is there little access to mental health services, there are very few professional counselors willing to go to rural areas and serve those people."

Walter said people in need of those services are forced to go to Dallas or Waco for help. That is, if they can get in.

"Some people fall through the cracks and can't afford those services if they don't have insurance or medicaid so they go without being treated," he said.

He said he is trying to match professional therapists with those in need and not wait until issues arise such as a kid hurting or killing themselves.

"I feel my responsibility is to try to find ways to fill in those gaps," he said. "If people can't afford to pay for services there ought to be a trade-off such as community service. If they can't pay they can do something to pay it forward."

The goal is to provide 1,000 free hours of therapy for counseling services which, is a myriad of things including: diagnostic assessments, treatment plans, providing family counseling, case management or family intervention if a child is having trouble in school.

"The government is cutting Medicaid funding, we have an opioid crisis, a meth crisis and about 65 percent of people arrested in Corsicana have a mental illness," he said.

Walter said the people who aren't being treated behind bars or in the public are some of the same people we shop next to or with whom our kids are going to school.

"Almost 100 percent of the homeless population has mental health or addiction issues," he said Addiction is a disease, it's not just a person who chooses that life. After a certain amount of time the brain rewires itself and takes a shortcut with the drugs."

Walter said since Lakes Regional shut down, there are no longer any substance abuse services in Navarro County and very few programs for children.

Walter is Executive Director of Lifeline Children and Family Services, a non-profit organization started in 2003 for the purpose of foster care and adoption, which they still do. He has offices in Corsicana, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston.

"We have a church called Lifeline Fellowship Family Church but it is a separate entity, there is no religious aspect to our other services," he said.

Walter said he works with ADHD children, doesn't treat the child as much as the whole family because the family has to adjust to how they treat the child.

Walter said although mental health awareness has come a long way, there is still a stigma associated with it, especially in southern black churches.

"I want to help African-American pastors, not just to be aware of mental illness but know how to identify it and create collaborative relationships with people in the community," he said. "There are very few black licensed health professionals around so that's why I went down this path."

Walter has started a new initiative called Hands in Hands and is committed to offering counseling in the area, for those who cannot afford it.

The mission is to help to match professional therapists who will commit to helping needy clients.

"We provide them a venue to do therapy, the software and programs for them to use and hopefully partner with those professionals to do other things such as groups for substance abuse and stress management, he said, "These are evidence-based programs that have already shown success."

He is trying to bridge the gap between those who can't afford services and those who can afford to provide them at little or no cost.

"It's a trade-off," he said. "They don't have to rent a building, or create documents. We have all that. I'm trying to do what I can to help, I want to serve."


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