The Chicago group is bringing residents a mobile mental health bus

CHICAGO (CBS) — In times of crisis, admitting that you need help dealing with your mental health is often the first step, but things often stop from there without knowing where you’re going or who you’re reaching out to have to turn.

A community group in the Austin borough is working to remove these barriers to finding resources by reaching out directly to those in need.

On a piece of land on Chicago’s West Side, community group BUILD Inc. has done just that.

“We have a whole new building,” said David Rodriguez, a BUILD member. “We finally have a second floor.”

CBS 2 met the staff who will spend part of their day here when the new space in Harrison and Laramie, just off Eisenhower, opens next month for its Austin neighbors.

There’s a brand new gym, colorful workspaces, a kitchen and more, all designed to provide a safe place for kids and young adults to hang out and connect to resources they need.

“Honestly, we do anything and everything,” said Gabriela Castillo.

And this need is great. So much so that what brought CBS 2 here wasn’t the shiny new building. That’s what BUILD does outside the walls.

“Let’s say our client has very little or no access to transportation, or he’s on probation and can’t really leave his house, right? We’ll come to them,” Castillo added.

She is a member of the Mobile Mental Health Team and does her work on wheels.

“What I’m really looking for is quick stabilization, so if someone needs a place to live, they need employment,” she said.

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When Rodriguez is on board, he runs therapy.

“Mental health is a stigma in the community overall, both the black community and the brown community, so it’s actually, ‘We don’t want to talk about it,'” he said.

The idea is that while the approaching bus isn’t subtle, there are comfy sofas in its windows, which are tinted for privacy, and the opportunity to meet anywhere. It creates a level of opportunity that many young people would not seek.

“I would say just treat it like it’s like a phone call to your best friend or a journal entry,” said Dameon Reid, who first entered therapy with Rodriguez when the bus got to his work.

“I realized it’s very important to have this platform to not just vent but to get a level headed perspective on some of the things I’m experiencing and David is doing a great job of picking me up where I am am,” Reid said.

Personal anecdotes aside, numbers show that this outreach works. BUILD said that 84% of teens who reported experiencing emotional struggles said they had improved their ability to manage emotions. About 88% of youth who need help with conflict reported improving their conflict resolution skills.

And while BUILD focuses on serving young people, it doesn’t turn away adults who need the same support.

“When I was homeless, they helped me, helped me with an apartment,” Paula Lucious said.

Meeting on the bus changed Lucious’s life, and there’s no mistaking it given the vulnerability she’s now ready to share

“I’m getting a little emotional,” Lucious said.

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She never thought she would go to therapy. Few who set foot on the Mental Health Mobile Bus do so.

“We are breaking generational cures. We’re breaking generational stigmas about what mental health is about,” Rodriguez said.

But they will tell you that they are better for it.

“I don’t really have a lot of people, and when they reach out to me, I feel good,” Lucious said.

And that’s a good job.

Starting this weekend, BUILD’s new building is open, making help available to this four-wheeled, four-walled community.

Read more about our special coverage of Kids in Crisis and learn more about the documentary Connecting the Dots.

Marie Saavedra