Living in Freedom Together, a Worcester-based survivor-led organization working to end the sex trade, is planning to open a first-of-its-kind outpatient clinic for mental and behavioral health specifically for victims and survivors of prostitution, officials said.

The announcement comes after LIFT was awarded $35,000 from Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association through their Healthy Relationships Community Grant initiative.

Those dollars will support LIFT in opening the outpatient clinic at its flagship site, HARBOR.

“I am profoundly grateful and impressed by the generosity and support by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association of the Outpatient Clinic’s opening. Not only will this funding help us get the Outpatient Clinic started, but this sends a major message to new audiences that supporting mental health services, and prioritizing survivor’s access to mental health services, should be a priority to our nation,” said Nicole Bell, LIFT’s founder and CEO.

“This grant will support LIFT with our mission of serving victims and survivors of the sex trade, many who are experiencing homelessness, substance use disorder, and mental health disorders, through the LIFT Outpatient Clinic for Medical and Behavioral Health,” Bell continued.

LIFT said there is a shortage of therapists who provide trauma therapies, an important component to recovering from gender-based violence and other traumas.

The LIFT Outpatient Clinic for Mental and Behavioral Health (LIFT OC) will be composed of a clinical director, a robust team of mental health clinical interns from local colleges and universities and two recovery support navigators, the organization said.

“LIFT is planning to expand mental health services at HARBOR with the objective of bringing appropriate and meaningful treatment resources to prostituted people, a population that is routinely marginalized and overlooked by society. This grant will be allocated to the LIFT OC and support costs associated with staffing, the credentialing process, development of training material, and marketing and promotional materials,” the nonprofit said in a statement.

Costs will include getting the clinic and clinicians credentialed with health insurance companies enabling the clinic to bill for services provided, as well as purchasing an electronic medical record system. Once clinicians are credentialed, the program will become self-sustaining, LIFT said.

“However, this process is lengthy, and the sex trade had produced a mental health crisis in the community, which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prostituted people experience trauma and violence leading to high rates of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) and the successful treatment of CPTSD calls for treatment that is not currently accessible in Worcester,” the statement said.

The clinic will be an accessible place for prostituted people to get treatment and will also be open to interns at local colleges and universities and to practicing clinicians, LIFT said.

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