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Congressman compliments nonprofit counseling group

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Congressman Rob Wittman toured Fredericksburg Counseling Services clinic on Thursday April 17, 2014. ( REZA A. MARVASHTI / THE FREE LANCE-STAR )

Congressman Rob Wittman toured Fredericksburg Counseling Services clinic on Thursday April 17, 2014. ( REZA A. MARVASHTI / THE FREE LANCE-STAR )

Rep. Rob Wittman complimented Fredericksburg Counseling Services on its business model on Thursday, saying he would spread word of it “far and wide.”

The nonprofit mental health clinic relies on graduate students to provide free counseling to the uninsured and poor.

“I know many times it might in the larger scale go unrecognized, but I can tell you, the people that you affect on a daily basis, it stays with them forever,” Wittman, R–1st, said during a visit to the organization’s office in Fredericksburg.

The congressman, whose district stretches from the Fredericksburg area to Hampton Roads, discussed a range of topics, including the potential for federal grants for programs involving teen suicide prevention and other issues. Fredericksburg Counseling Services, or FCS, receives funding from Rappahannock United Way, the Mary Washington Hospital Community Services Fund, grants and other sources.

Barbara Horn, a marriage and family therapist intern with FCS, told Wittman that the nonprofit has visited high schools in the area for 90-minute workshops on suicide prevention. Several high schoolers now go to the free clinic for counseling as a result of those presentations, she said.

“We’ve reached, as far as I know, every ninth-grader in Spotsylvania County since January to let them know what to look for, what to do, who to call,” said Horn, who will graduate from Liberty University in May with a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy.

Wittman said he would look into the availability of federal grants for programs involving at-risk students.

“In my mind, you make a very compelling argument to say, we ought to be able to compete for those dollars,” he said. He said he’d also check whether the organization could seek federal money to help military veterans.

Fredericksburg Counseling Services currently has 17 interns who are seeking master’s degrees, and six undergraduate interns.

Marci Bartley, the nonprofit’s executive director, said universities are “hungry” for programs like FCS that offer hard-to-find counseling internships.

“It could be a new movement,” she said.

Wittman said he would do everything in his power to help. While he looks to help at the federal level, money for mental health has also been a state government issue, as legislators try to provide needed funding.

“Finding ways to leverage those scarce resources we have and ways to, again, positively impact people’s lives is the way to do things,” Wittman said.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402