Dr. Jennifer Cox founded the Pier 34 Foundation after her brother Rob, who suffered from bipolar disorder, died at 34. “I realized I’d lost not only my best friend, but my pier in the water, the person I turned to,” said Cox, a licensed professional counselor. Her mother suffered from severe depression as well, so mental health issues had always been part of her family life.
“My mother didn’t get the help she needed until she was in hospice care,” Cox said, “and she told me it was the first time in her life that she’d felt heard.”
Her brother had a difficult time finding affordable mental health care, too, and in the aftermath of his death, Cox found in that frustration the genesis of an idea that is now Pier 34. She and Robbie Van Curen, a marriage and family therapist, created a network of mental health professionals who would take referrals from the organization.
“One of the important things we’ve been able to do is bring in people who have funds they want to donate so that others can get the help they need. We provide assistance to the uninsured and under-insured,” Van Curen said. “Basically, we bring three threads together: people who need help and can’t afford it, mental health professionals, and people with the financial ability to help.”
To date, their most important fundraising event has been an annual shrimp boil that features auction items during a night of delicious food from Brent’s Cajun Seafood of Edmond. The annual event is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 24, at the Edmond Farmers Market. Doors open and silent auction begins at 6 p.m. Auction items include a private dinner prepared by James Beard Award-nominated chef David Gilbert, a cocktail class at Barkeep Supply in Midtown, and a distillery tour and tasting of Wanderfolk Spirits in Guthrie.
“Brent’s got on board with us early,” Cox said. “The food is always delicious, and we’re very grateful to have a committed partner in this event.”
Pier 34 provides services via a network of mental health professionals that clients can access after their application has been approved. The process is straightforward. Potential clients fill out an application online, including demographic information, synopsis of need, family size and income verification. Cox figures where they land in the federal poverty line range—the metric used by Pier 34 to determine need—and once the application is approved, they choose a provider. The client automatically qualifies for six sessions, and the therapist can request up to six more based on professional assessment of the situation.
“The YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City is a partner in this, as well,” Cox said. “Clients who live in OKC proper receive six months of free membership. Our board member emeritus Mike Roark, who is the COO for the local YMCA, says it’s important to focus on physical health as well as mental health.”
Tickets for the Sept. 24 event are available beginning at $60. Click here to purchase your tickets!