CENTERVILLE, Ohio (WDTN) — May is Mental Health Awareness Month and according to the World Health Organization, the number of people suffering from mental illness continues to rise.

One local man is hoping to put a dent in the growing numbers by taking on a new challenge and opening an Ellie Mental Health in the Miami Valley.

Most people in the Miami Valley community know Jim Kilby as a local pastor. Others may remember him as the owner of “The Attic,” a non-profit for teenagers that hosted live music in the early 2000s. Now Kilby is focusing his attention on a growing mental health problem facing younger generations.

“I was a troubled young person. My mother was married five times when I was a kid. I lived in that life, so my heart kind of beats for that even though I’m in my 60s,” said Kilby.

Kilby says the pandemic escalated the mental health problem, even taking its toll on his kids.

“The mental health thing is a big deal because statistically since the pandemic, double the number of kids are seeking mental health. So it was maybe 16%, now it’s like 26%,” said Kilby.

Kilby is now the area developer for Ellie Mental Health, a national mental health service operating across the country. Kilby says the structure Ellie Mental Health provides will help streamline the process, allowing more people to be served in the Miami Valley.

“It gets rid of all the extra things a clinician has to do whether it’s billing, credentialing, contracting, or doing the janitorial. You’re not going to be able to counsel as well as you would if you have someone taking care of all of that,” said Kilby.

Kilby says he has one simple goal with this new path he’s on and that’s to erase the stigma surrounding mental health.

“Maybe drinking a glass of water instead of a pop. Maybe take a vitamin and walk and get some exercise. Maybe talking to someone when you don’t feel right should be a thing that’s not looked down on as weird,” said Kilby.

Ellie Mental Health will be hosting its grand opening in Centerville on May 31, with plans to open more locations around the Miami Valley.