Friday
June 2, 2006
SGN.org
Volume 34
Issue 22
 
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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

 

 



 
SEATTLE COUNSELING SERVICE - Opportunities blossoming at nation's oldest continuously running LGBT mental health organization
SEATTLE COUNSELING SERVICE - Opportunities blossoming at nation's oldest continuously running LGBT mental health organization
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

Ann T. McGettigan can almost say she's seen it all. In her seven-plus years at Seattle Counseling Service for Sexual Minorities (SCS) she's helped oversee many monumental changes at the agency including two moves and the integration of chemical dependency services.

McGettigan has watched the agency's staff blossom and has seen the nonprofit grow to the point it now serves over a 1,200 clients per year. But this isn't enough for the dedicated community servant. She believes SCS can do more.

I sat down with McGettigan to talk about SCS and her plans for the organization. Her answers were confident, certain, excited; the voice of an activist holding the best interests of Seattle's LGBT community at heart.



Sara Michelle Fetters: How are things going over at SCS?

Ann T. McGettigan: Things are going great. It is a very exciting time for the organization right now, a time of growth, outreach and public discussion in regards to mental health and chemical dependency issues. Working with the State, other nonprofits and partners in the community we're out there right on the forefront trying to improve services, and access to those services, for everyone. In all honesty we couldn't be much happier and we're looking towards the future with great interest.

SMF: You've been there as Executive Director for quite some time now. How have things changed over this these seven years?

ATM: One important change has been the addition and growth of our chemical dependency program. That has been a significant change, especially the addition and growth of the nationally recognized Project NEON.

But there have been many other changes, too, not the least of which have been the strides we've made as an organization in regards to integrated care and harm reduction. Then there is SCS' greater visibility in the community and the many partnerships we've formed with other Seattle nonprofits, like Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Verbena, MultiFaith Works, the LGBT Community Center and Gay City Health Project, which have really gone a long way to help the health and well being of LGBT individuals all across our region.

Of course, we also moved from our Broadway location into a bigger, more user friendly space over on the corner of Pine and Melrose back in July of '04. That might be the most important change of all. This new space not only has provided us the opportunity to serve more members of the community, it also has allowed us to support our partners and nonprofit neighbors with a safe, welcoming space perfect for their meetings, trainings or various workshops.

SMF: Why do you think it is that SCS isn't as well known as some of the other nonprofits in the Seattle area?

ATM: In many ways that is just the nature of the beast. We work with people who are in crisis, and whether these crises stem from mental health issues, substance abuse or both we provide a safe, welcoming and completely confidential environment for our clients to come to and get support.

That said, while confidentiality and safety are very valid reasons as to why SCS remains an unknown entity to so many in the community, the others are not near as sound. Even in a new millennium, there is still great misunderstanding surrounding what it is we do, the services we provide and the people we work so strenuously to assist. There tends to be stigma and denial around mental health and substance abuse issues in our community. Increasing visibility about SCS gives us an opportunity to address stigma and denial and make change that will improve the lives of all our community members.

SMF: What do you wish people did know about SCS? What message would you like them to hear?

AM: There is so much, actually.

It would probably have to begin with our rich heritage. SCS, founded in 1969, is the oldest continuously running mental health organization specifically serving LGBT folks in the United States. Our radical history of fiercely protecting client confidentiality and providing superior services to our community is truly extraordinary.

Then there has been the addition of chemical dependency and harm reduction services, specifically Project NEON. This has allowed SCS to provide the most comprehensive services in our history, services that get more focused and better attuned every single day, with the ultimate goal to improve the well-being of our community member.

SMF: In regards to outreach into the community, you've got a major event coming up on June 10 at Town Hall. Could you tell me a little bit more about that?

ATM: We do indeed. It's our annual fundraiser, ICON: a celebration of drag, art & life. We couldn't be more excited about it, really. Our hostess and event producer Aleksa Manila has really gone out of her way to make this third event the most exciting one yet. The performers she has lined up all sound pretty amazing to me, and Town Hall is such an incredible venue I can't wait until Saturday, June 10 for it all to happen. I'm sure people are really going to enjoy themselves.

SMF: Sounds fun. What makes this ICON event so special?

ATM: Well, for me, ICON is so much more than a celebration of drag and impersonation performance art. It is a community celebration honoring individuals from all walks of life who have gone out of their way to make a difference in their respective communities. It is a night for our friends, neighbors and fellow providers to all get together and really congratulate each other on the hard work we do each and every day.

As for the show itself, while I definitely enjoy Drag I can't exactly call myself a connoisseur of the art form. I just know I like it when I see it, and that's more than enough for me. But, as for specifics, that would be more up Miss Manila's alley than it would be up mine.

SMF: You've also added a combination event to go along with ICON, a mini-competition creatively dubbed 'ICON Idol.' How do these Drag events help SCS?

ATM: ICON Idol was our clinical director Donnie Goodman's grand idea, and I couldn't be more pleased as to how this whole competition has turned out. The semifinals pitting the top three contestants from May's preliminaries are this Friday, 8:00 p.m. at Neighbours Underground. From there, the top two are going to compete underneath the Town Hall lights at ICON the following Friday, those in attendance deciding who will be the first ever 'ICON Idol.' It's really rather exciting.

As for how these events help SCS, I think the answer is pretty obvious. Events like ICON and ICON Idol help increase awareness for the agency and the issues it attempts to deal with. They help start discussion and debate without which change is seldom, if ever, possible. And, of course, they are also fundraisers, helping SCS raise much needed funds that can help us continue to serve the LGBT community here in Seattle to the best of our abilities.

SMF: Pride is also coming up in a couple of weeks. Will SCS be involved in the festivities this year?

ATM: Yes, SCS will be involved. We are currently finalizing our plans in regards to Pride. Visibility and removing barriers is important to our agency, and as such we will be active in every way that we can. We want to make sure we are available for all LGBT individuals, no matter who they are or what their opinions in regards to this year's events. Perhaps if people see our diverse staff, see the entire spectrum of whom we are and who we help, they will see we're here for all of Seattle and that we go out of our way to reflect the diversity of the communities. It is our honor to serve.

SMF: What's next for SCS? The organization turns forty in less than three years. Any big plans?

ATM: Well, personally, I hope that by the time SCS turns 40 we've increased our collaborative relationships with other LGBT providers here and throughout the Pacific Northwest. That is very important to me and I feel like SCS has only scratched the surface as to what we can accomplish on that front.

But that's only the tip of the iceberg. We want to continue to move into the public eye, continue to grow our infrastructure and work on providing even better, more streamlined and intimately focused services to our clients. Everyday we work to make our mission a reality, to be a community resource that advocates, educates and serves to advance the social well being and mental health of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender communities.

And, no surprise, I'm sure we'll have a party. You only turn 40 once after all!

SMF: Final thoughts?

ATM: SCS has never been about awards, recognition or acclaim. We don't go in for bells and we certainly don't need whistles. We are here to serve our community. That has always been our guiding mission since our inception in 1969. We've been busy doing our work and keeping our heads down. Now it is time to be a bit more visible and make sure everyone who needs to know about us, needs to seek our help and assistance, can find us. We care about Seattle.

We care about the LGBT community. We work hard every single day to make sure we remain a resource willing and waiting to serve as best we can. What more can I say than that?



Ann T. McGettigan and Seattle Counseling Service present "ICON 3: a celebration of Drag, art & life" to be held Saturday, June 10, 2006 at Town Hall, 1119 8th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101. Doors will open at 7:00 p.m. with the show starting promptly at 8:00 p.m. Advance V.I.P. tickets are $35 and can be bought by calling 206-323-1768. General Admission tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door. For more information go to www.seattlecounseling.org.

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