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Color Outside the Lines Provides Mental Health Counseling to Marginalized Individuals in Crisis

Color Outside the Lines (COTL), a program of Community Action Lehigh Valley (CALV), is a five-to seven-year strategic plan to invest in Lehigh Valley’s future. The plan seeks to eliminate racial inequities and reduce disparities in the following areas: housing, education, economic opportunity, employment, criminal justice, health care, mental health, arts and culture and recreation.

A key component of the program is COTL's mental health initiative, which offers mental health counseling to individuals seeking to overcome obstacles related to racial and economic inequality. Through focused counseling, individuals accepted into the program receive seven one-on-one sessions at no cost with a licensed therapist, funded through grants and donor support.

In June 2021, the National Community Action Partnership's Equity and Economic Mobility Commission declared racism a public health crisis. CALV’s mental health initiative is designed to make mental health services accessible and affordable, and it aims to reduce the stigma in many communities of color that seeking mental health support is a sign of weakness.

The program operates on several levels:

• Participants list a reference or support contact including a caseworker, teacher, counselor, doctor, parent, manager, etc.

  • Participants must identify with the following eligibility criteria:

    • Belong to one or more of these groups: Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), or other groups that have not received enough support

    • Identify as a low-to-moderate income resident in the Lehigh valley Metro area

    • List a referral contact

• Participants can apply to the program online and are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, de-pending on availability. Applications are considered based on need.

• Participants undergo a brief evaluation with a licensed therapist who explains the benefits and conditions of mental health counseling. If the participant accepts the conditions, the therapist completes a pre-session evaluation, then designs a mental health counseling strategy based on seven in-person, 1-hour sessions. Participants must agree to attend all sessions.

• Once the participant completes all seven sessions, the therapist conducts a post-session evaluation and recommends a long-term mental health strategy to support the participant after they exit the program. Additional supportive resources are also provided.

• Participants are then required to complete a feedback form to assess whether the program addressed their immediate needs and was successful in helping them better manage problems in the future.

• Licensed therapists accepted into the program receive $50 per hour/session, plus a $25 program administrative fee per hour/session for a total of $75 per hour. Therapists earn a total of $525 for each participant they receive and support.

• Though the nature of each session remains confidential, data is drawn from pre-and post-evaluations and participant feedback to evaluate the program’s success and viability.

  • Participants are drawn from within CALV's Racial and Ethnic Justice program and other agency programs, as well as from external agencies that partner with CALV to improve conditions in marginalized communities in the Lehigh Valley. Among CALV’s internal programming are:

    • Sixth Street Shelter: Our 30, 60, to 90-day short-term transitional housing program for families with children who are experiencing homelessness.

    • Second Harvest Food Back: A partner food bank of Feeding America providing children, seniors, veterans, and families with fresh and nutritious groceries.

    • SHE – Our strength-based after school program with a mission to create an educational an inspirational environment for 4th – 8th grade girls with a focus on self-esteem, health, and relationship building.

    • Generation Next – Our college readiness, access, and completion program created to correct education disparities.

    • Color Outside the Lines Racial and Ethnic Justice Initiative

To learn more about the program, click the button below to visit our Mental Health Initiative page:

If you'd like to sign up for our program, please use the form linked below:

For more information about the program or to apply, contact Winslow Mason Jr., Director, Racial and Ethnic Justice program at or 484-893-1033.

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