Husband and wife Paul "Allen" Lude and Kari Mika-Lude are the driving forces behind Aspire to Inspire Behavioral Health and Addiction Services, helping individuals — including those in demanding emergency occupations — face, cope and heal through daily stresses, ongoing challenges and chemical dependencies.
Opened almost a year ago, Aspire to Inspire offers professional mental health and addiction counseling, consultation and clinical supervision at its Hurricane-based practice at 3744 Teays Valley Road, Suite #211.
"Allen and I started this business in March of 2018, because we wanted to serve the state of West Virginia," Kari said.
Married a year and a half ago, the Ludes launched the practice from their home in Culloden before establishing a Hurricane location.
A Chicago native, Kari moved to West Virginia almost two years ago. She is a licensed and board-certified therapist specializing in mental health, trauma and addiction.
"In addition to running Aspire to Inspire," said Kari, "I also teach for Northwestern University in their online Master of Arts in Counseling program. As a therapist, I help people through some of the lowest points of their lives, and helping them to climb out of that is incredibly rewarding. As a professor, I have the privilege of educating future therapists and helping them to develop their clinical skills.
"The Aspire side of the business is the clinical, or therapy, side," she said. "My education and early career instilled a value of social justice and offering reasonable access to services for those who need them. We accept private insurance and self-pay, of course, but we also offer a sliding fee scale for people who are uninsured, have high-deductible policies, etc. I provide these services along with two other therapists on our team that we've hired, Dana L. Petroff and Megan Burke."
Allen was a volunteer firefighter and EMT for the Davis Creek area in Kanawha County for approximately eight years and a South Central Regional Jail correctional officer for about four years.
"He experienced firsthand the physical and emotional stress of being a first responder, which is one of the reasons why we started the Code Green presentation," Kari said.
The Inspire side of the business is the consulting side. "Since starting the business, we have provided workshops for the Kenova Police Department, the Dunbar Fire Department, the Transportation Security Administration and the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services," Kari said.
Aspire to Inspire was also contracted recently to present its Code Green program for all Cabell County first responders, which will get underway in March.
"Code Green is such an important part of our work," Kari said. "For one thing, it's a project that Allen and I can work on together, which is amazing. On top of that, first responders and our military risk their lives to keep us safe, and the likelihood of them developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is more than double that of the general population.
"Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding this issue has kept many from reaching out for help, and we've reached a point where first responder suicides seem to be an almost weekly occurrence. It's practically an epidemic," she said.
"When Allen and I started this business, we knew this was an area that we needed to focus on. With my background in trauma and mental health and Allen's background as a first responder who has dealt with PTSD, we are able to provide a unique perspective and address the issue from both sides. Even the helpers need help sometimes, and we want to do as much as we can."
The name Code Green stems from the Code Green Campaign, a nonprofit organization based in Washington that focuses on first responder mental health advocacy and awareness.
"They combined the color green, which is the color representing mental health awareness, and the 'code alert' system that's used by first responders and medical professionals to communicate about different levels of emergency," Kari explained.
On Jan. 11, a Code Green session was conducted with members of the Dunbar Fire Department.