SIMI VALLEY : Family Counseling Clinic to Open

Simi Valley residents who suffer the private horror of domestic violence or family drug problems can soon get help when one of the area's largest private social service organizations opens a new family guidance clinic, officials said.

Interface Children and Family Services of Ventura County has received a $20,937 grant from the Simi Valley City Council for start-up costs. The private, nonprofit agency is looking for office space to lease, officials said.

Many individuals and families seeking affordable counseling in Simi Valley have had to travel to the Interface office in Thousand Oaks for services, said Charles Watson, executive director. The agency also has family counseling centers in Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura.

"I know that some (Simi Valley) people were choosing not to get help, because we couldn't provide them with a convenient place to go," Watson said.

Problems addressed by Interface counselors range from family violence, to drug and alcohol addiction and less dramatic marriage and family issues such as poor communication. The agency has offered counseling part time out of a Simi Valley church basement for several years, providing a nearby source of services for a few clients, Watson said. Most who needed help, however, had to drive for help, he said.

Travel can be expensive for low-income families, Watson said. "It turns a one-hour appointment into a two-hour ordeal," Watson said.

Meanwhile, the agency has noted a 45% increase during each of the past two years in the number of Simi Valley families and individuals seeking help, Watson said.

In its first year, the agency expects to provide counseling to more than 200 Simi Valley residents, who will be charged based on their ability to pay, Watson said. Within a year, the Simi Valley office is expected to be financially self-sufficient, he said.

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