Partnering for mental health

Haven Counseling Services, Good Samaritan Health Clinic to offer free mental health services supported by Stephen K. Griffith Memorial Fund

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Representatives of The Stephen K. Griffith Memorial Fund present a check to Haven Counseling Services Friday morning. Left to right are Good Samaritan Health Clinic Board of Directors Chairman Jared Rice, Good Samaritan Executive Director Jolanda Hutson, Raymond Williams, Haven Counseling Services Director Mandy Wilhite, Shay Persall, Steve Glasscock and Steve Donaldson. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

SOUTH VINEMONT, Ala. – Haven Counseling Services and Good Samaritan Health Clinic cut the ribbon Friday morning at Haven’s office at 18291 U.S. Highway 31 in South Vinemont, to announce a new partnership between the two agencies and the Stephen K. Griffith (SKG) Memorial Fund to provide mental health services to low-income clients and those without insurance. 

In a statement, Good Samaritan Executive Director Jolanda Hutson said, “When I received the phone call from a representative of the SKG Memorial Fund committee in October 2019, it was truly an answer to prayer.  Mental health counseling is a service we (the Clinic) have wanted to provide our patients for quite some time. After several months of discussion among the SKG Memorial Fund Board, the Clinic’s Board of Directors, and several leaders in our community, we were able to develop a plan that will allow us to meet this vital need for our patients.

“Good Samaritan Clinic is honored to partner with the SKG Memorial Fund and Haven Counseling Services to provide access to these much-needed services for the low income, uninsured in our community. Our Board of Directors and leadership team are grateful to have a part in honoring Steve’s memory as we partner to raise mental health awareness and fill the tremendous gap in the accessibility of mental health services in the Cullman community. We are especially grateful to the Griffith family for allowing the tragedy of Steve’s passing to be used for good, positively impacting so many in our community.”

Good Samaritan Board of Directors Chairman Jared Rice told The Tribune, “On behalf of the clinic, we’re just really excited to have this opportunity to partner with (Haven Counseling Services Director) Mandy (Wilhite) and with the Steve Griffith Memorial Fund. It’s going to be a great thing for our community, a great thing for the patients of the Good Samaritan Clinic, and we’re excited for the partnership.”

Wilhite, a Licensed and Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) with 15 years’ experience in counseling. In her profile on the Psychology Today online clinical directory, she explained her services and approach:

“I offer Christian counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, grief counseling, family and marital/pre-marital counseling and dialectical therapy in a non-judgmental, warm environment. We’re in this together and we learn from mistakes and life events. No pain is ever wasted as long as we keep our priorities in order and know what truly matters in this life.

“Life can be hard, but I can walk beside you to reach your goal of stability and happiness. None of us were provided with every situation and answer to life, but we were told that we will all have trials and tribulations. We are never alone in this walk and I want to encourage and empower you to your fullest potential.”

Wilhite said in a statement on Friday, “Anxiety, stress, depression, and suicide are just a few of the mental health concerns that low income members of our community face daily. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), approximately one in five adults in the US experience mental illness each year. The primary barrier is a lack of health insurance or fear of stigmatization that prevents individuals from seeking treatment.

“Haven Counseling Services is honored to partner with Good Samaritan Health Clinic and the Stephen K. Griffith Memorial Fund to empower those affected by this lack of resources. Through tragedy has come great strength in our community in offering funding resources through the Stephen K. Griffith Memorial Fund. We believe no pain is ever wasted and seek to serve the broken in spirit as we show the true love of Christ through mental health counseling services.”

Clients must apply for and qualify for Good Samaritan’s services in order to receive mental health counseling. Nurse Practitioner Patricia Calvert will review cases and determine if a client should be referred to counseling, at which point Good Samaritan will schedule an appointment with Haven Counseling Services.

Calvert said in a statement Friday, “There is a definite need for mental health care throughout the population here in our community. Most patients who utilize the Good Samaritan Clinic usually have a history of mental illness, like anxiety and depression, that is for the most part untreated due to lack of access to care. By partnering with the SKG Memorial Fund, we can provide this service to our patients and help them build on a stronger foundation towards both mental and physical health.”

How it started

The Tribune spoke with SKG Memorial Fund Board of Directors representatives Shay Persall and Steve Glasscock about their decision to partner with Good Samaritan and Haven.

Persall said, “Basically, we were trying to figure out how best to reach the intended recipients of the fund, because it’s specifically set up for Cullman (County) residents who are indigent, that otherwise would go untreated. They don’t have insurance; they don’t have money to go and just pay for counseling. So our best thought in how to reach those people was maybe to join up with the Good Samaritan Clinic, because they are already with, kind of, the population that the money was intended to help.

“So the Good Samaritan Clinic, we had several meetings with them and, a lot of times, it’s our understanding that people with mental health issues, you know, they need some therapy, they need some counseling, they need somebody to talk to, somebody that can kind of follow up with them. 

“A lot of times, people with mental health issues, they quit taking their medicine. They think, ‘Oh, I’m feeling better.’ They quit taking it. If we do some kind of counseling, there’s somebody that they can talk to, that can help address their issues, but can also kind of follow up with them- ‘How are you doing? You’re taking your medicine?’- and kind of make sure that everything- that they stay on the right track.”

“Basically, the Good Samaritan Clinic, anybody that has a mental health issue, the Good Samaritan Clinic will help them get their forms filled out, help get them registered, get them in the system. We’ll refer them to Haven Counseling, and then Haven will handle the counseling portion.”

The goals of involvement

Glasscock said, “We want to see it reach people in Cullman County who need the assistance, and otherwise might not or will not either seek out the counseling or seek out the help that, maybe by partnering some with Good Samaritan- who already has for a number of years reached out to a segment of our county population that truly needs assistance.”

Persall continued, “We want to educate people about mental health issues, raise more awareness, and maybe other people will come forward, other organizations, maybe they would want to join in and contribute, and basically just raise mental health awareness and do the most good that we can possibly do.”

Said Glasscock, “We have gotten donations from people who want to see this happen in the county, as a result of their knowledge, or friendship, or knowing or working with Steve Griffith before his untimely death.”

Introducing members of the Alabama Bar Association to the memorial fund in 2019, the board wrote:

Steve was a husband, father, grandfather, friend, mentor, and a great contributor to the community. His generosity knew no bounds. In the spirit of Steve’s generosity, the Griffith family would like to continue his legacy and make a positive impact on the members of the Cullman County community. The loss of Steve for his family and our community was too soon and was a direct result of the mental health crisis currently facing our community and nation.   

The mental health crisis is impacting all of the United States, and Alabama and Cullman County are no exception. In 2017, 106,740 people throughout Alabama sought mental health treatment. The State of Alabama only has 2,775 inpatient psychiatric treatment beds available throughout the state, many of which will not accept patients without insurance. Although Alabama has State Mental Health facilities to help fill this need, in 2017 they were only able to treat 857 patients.

In 2018, Cullman Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department had 1,027 patients seeking mental health treatment. Of those, nearly 30% had no insurance or ability to pay for any care, which means they were unable to receive adequate treatment. Even more startling is that these are just the people who are seeking care or have been mandated to receive care. There is a much larger population of people who remain untreated. A large number of the untreated individuals find themselves incarcerated without any type of treatment available to address the primary and underlying issue.               

The Griffith family has created the Stephen K. Griffith Memorial Fund (the “Fund”) to raise mental health awareness and to assist those suffering from mental illness.  The goal of the fund is to fill the tremendous gap in mental health care in our community and to provide assistance to indigent members of Cullman County, Alabama, that may otherwise have no access to mental health resources.  

The Fund is administered through Garrison Gives Hope, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. All donations are tax deductible. There are five committee members for the Fund, chosen by the Griffith family, who are responsible for assuring that the funds are used appropriately and in the spirit which Steve would approve. The committee members are: Steve Donaldson, Steve Glasscock, Shawn Nelson, Shay Persall, and Dr. Tom “Big Doc” Williamson. There are also three Fund advisors, Charna Brown, Fess St. John, and Jeb Williamson. Charna is the liaison for Cullman Regional Medical Center and will provide a link between those who need assistance and the committee. Jeb is tasked with monitoring the fund and assuring that any donations are properly expended.  All are operating on a volunteer basis without compensation. 

Our hope is that the Fund will save many lives. What greater tribute can there be to honor Steve’s memory?  

Get involved or find out more

Good Samaritan Health Clinic and Garrison Gives Hope are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Donations are tax-deductible.

If you would like to help support Good Samaritan and Haven’s mental health services, donations can be sent to the Stephen K. Griffith Memorial Fund at 

The Stephen K. Griffith Memorial Fund

P.O. Box 1544

Cullman, AL 35056

To speak to someone about the memorial fund, call Meagan Tucker at 256-255-5547.

To become a patient of Good Samaritan Health Clinic, you must be a resident of Cullman County, have two forms of identification, and provide proof of all household income showing that income is below 250% of federal poverty guidelines. You must not be covered by Medicare, Medicaid, veterans or private insurance. All applicants must provide a Medicaid denial letter. 

For more information or to apply for services at Good Samaritan Health Clinic, visit www.goodsamaritancullman.com or call 256-775-1389.

Copyright 2020 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Haven Counseling Services and Good Samaritan Health Clinic cut the ribbon Friday morning at Haven’s office at 18291 U.S. Highway 31 in South Vinemont. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)
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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com