Courageous Healing is opening a new, unconventional mental health center in Southeast Fort Wayne

There’s a new sign on South Anthony Boulevard.

Next door to Ross Cleaning & Restoration and across the Street from 20/20 Import Auto Parts, there’s a vacant 1970s building being restored with a large black sign by the road that reads Courageous Healing, Inc.

The building is connected to its surrounding neighborhoods by sidewalks and a winding, wheelchair-accessible ramp leading up to the front door.

One morning in early-October, a crew of red-shirted volunteers surrounded the building’s exterior, retouching its paint, landscaping, and clearing brush from its parking lot. That afternoon, after the volunteers leave, a man from the community walking along the sidewalks wanders up to the front door and peers in.

Courageous Healing's building at 2013 S. Anthony Blvd. is under renovation in 2020.Janell Lane, the Co-Founder of Courageous Healing, Inc., with her husband Aaron Lane, sees the man and greets him at the door.

“Do you know what kind of company this is?” he asks, so Janell explains what Courageous Healing does.

The business grew out of her and Aaron’s background in mental health, social work, and organizational leadership. As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Fort Wayne and one of the few therapists of color at the offices where she worked, Janell saw the need for culturally competent mental health services in the city—services designed for people of color and, specifically, the Southeast neighborhoods where she and Aaron grew up.

Janell and Aaron Lane both grew up in Southeast Fort Wayne and want to give back to their community.

As Janell talks with the man at the door, she realizes that she knows him. He’s someone she worked with when he was a child, and she’s reminded of the challenges he’s had to endure. She re-introduces herself and tells him Courageous Healing Inc. will be open by the end of the year. She hopes he comes back.

There’s a new sign on South Anthony Boulevard, and for Janell, seeing her former client, now all grown up and knocking on the door of her business is a sign that Courageous Healing can’t open soon enough.

“People are already being drawn to the center,” she says. That’s why she and Aaron wanted to open a neighborhood-based location for their business in the first place. They wanted to serve the community they love with accessible counseling and holistic health services—particularly during a year when these services are in high demand.

Along with offices for mental health counseling, Courageous Healing's new location will offer services like massages and art therapy.

As the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest raise awareness about mental health, racial injustice, and inequities, Fort Wayne is following national trends in the demand for more counseling and support services designed by and for People of Color.

“We have 40 plus people on our waiting list for Courageous Healing, and that’s after we’ve provided referrals out to other agencies,” Janell says. “We’re opening our first space sooner than we planned because the need has required it.”

To meet the needs of the community, Courageous Healing has hired four additional therapists of color to join their team to complete their team of 6 clinical staff, which includes two Black male therapists. They’ve also hired two administrative staff who have been instrumental in shaping and operating their business.

Courageous Healing Inc. expanded its team in 2020 with four new counselors and two administrative staff.

In addition to Courageous Healing, the Lanes both work full-time jobs, care for their two children, and run a separate business, Courageous Living, LLC, which offers diversity training and a variety of consulting and cultural competency services for businesses and organizations. As the world evolves in 2020, these services are in high demand, as well. But despite the Lanes’ busy schedules and the attention they are getting from local media, they make it a point to stay humble and focused on people first.

Being the face of a cultural movement isn’t what they’re after. They want to make a difference in people’s lives and give back to the neighborhoods they grew up in—neighborhoods that don’t always get seats at tables where decisions are made due to systemic inequities.

“I think God is slowly elevating us to a platform that can sometimes be uncomfortable because that’s not what we desire, but we understand both the influence and the responsibility that accompany the assignment,” Janell says. “It can feel heavy at times if we slip into operating in our own strength, but we are quickly reminded that it’s not our burden to carry because we didn’t elevate ourselves.”

Aaron and Janell Lane own Courageous Healing, Inc., and Courageous Living, LLC.

Instead, she and Aaron feel that the work they are doing—and have been doing most of their careers—has been led by God, directed by “Kingdom strategy,” and focused foremost on meeting the needs of underserved populations.

Despite the tense and polarizing political climate of 2020, Courageous Healing has maintained a commitment to grace but has not shied away from equity, justice, and truth. The couple believes this is the approach God takes with each of us. He doesn’t just wrap us in grace; His love consists of both grace and truth.

“Instead of operating in comfort, we’re worried about what the population needs,” Janell says. “That’s what drives our decisions, the way we move, and how we implement things.”

Aaron describes the current climate in Fort Wayne following the protests against George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis this summer as an “awakening,” he explains “just like when you wake up, some people open their eyes and jump out of bed, ready to go. Some take time and lay there for a while. That’s the same way people are addressing racial tension.”

He sees Courageous Healing’s approach as being an extension of what it’s always been: Filling gaps in Fort Wayne’s community.

“We have to realize, as a community, that everybody’s going to approach racial tensions differently,” he says. “For Courageous Healing and Courageous Living, we’re doing what we’ve always done by filling gaps. We’re getting beyond looking at things as right or wrong, and instead assessing: Where do we fit in?”

Once complete, Courageous Healing's space will have a spa-like atmosphere.

As the Lanes continue the challenging, often uncharted work of being both highly connected to Southeast neighborhoods and savvy in corporate business culture, they are focusing on transparency and transformation, Janell says. This requires a commitment to authenticity and often having difficult conversations to create more equitable and informed environments in Northeast Indiana.

“We’re looking at the Fort Wayne community on the micro, mezzo, and macro levels,” she says. “We’re not just helping individuals and communities heal from the impact of systems; we’re also working to change the systems by sitting on committees and boards and pushing for policy change.”

To translate the breadth of Courageous Healing’s work into a physical location, the Lanes are collaborating with community volunteers and businesses to create something special on South Anthony Boulevard. On Saturday, Oct. 10, they hosted a “Heal the Land” community cleanup event outside their new space.

One volunteer who came out was Tiffiny Holmes who attends Janell and Aaron’s church. While Holmes doesn’t know the couple personally, she was inspired by Courageous Healing’s mission.

“It’s all about the community,” she says. “I think what they’re doing, especially with COVID-19 and the mental health crisis, is something that hasn’t been addressed, particularly in this part of town.”

Inside the building, One Eleven Design is helping the Lanes’ team create a respite of healing for the neighborhood that’s warm and inviting. On October 19, the design firm is even using its 19th anniversary to fundraise a goal of $100,000 for Courageous Healing’s space—asking friends and family to donate to an organization helping people through COVID-19.

Janell says that Courageous Healing will be seeking community support for the project, as well, on its social media and website. She hopes that as people consider Fort Wayne’s future, they see the value of investing in people and places on the Southeast side.

When Courageous Healing’s physical location opens, it will be a sign to the community that people care.

“Our community is only as healthy as its most underserved areas,” she says.

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Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.