Clinic expands to offer mental health services

Mar. 06, 2013 @ 12:58 PM

In the midst of a county-wide shortage of mental health professionals, the Rutherford Community Health Center is keeping those in need of help from falling through the cracks, attendees learned at a recent educational forum at Rutherford Regional.

Hosted by the local chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI), last week’s forum featured guest speaker Misty Nelson, clinical manager at the Rutherford Community Health Center.

Although the health center is primarily known for providing low-cost medical care, it also offers a broad scope of behavioral health care services, from counseling with licensed professionals, to medication prescribing except for narcotics.

According to Nelson, the services are available to any adult in need, including those who have exhausted all resources but still don’t qualify for Medicaid.

“Many of the people who see us have repeatedly had doors slammed in their face in their search for mental health care. We tell them the door is open here,” Nelson said.

Part of the difficulty these clients have previously faced is due to a chronic shortage of licensed psychiatric professionals. There are currently less than five psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners in Rutherford County.

“We’re actively looking to recruit more of these professionals; it’s just harder getting them to relocate to rural areas,” Nelson said.

The shortage prevents the health center from treating clients with more severe mental health care needs; however, it can connect them with the appropriate providers. In the interim, the health center stays in regular touch with the client, a measure that keeps people in acute need from falling off the radar.

Nelson said that Rutherford County’s high unemployment rate is a driving factor behind two of the most prevalent mental health conditions the clinic treats - anxiety and depression. By the same token, people who struggle with behavioral health issues often have a much harder time obtaining or holding onto a job.

The health center works with numerous local entities to offer affordable mental health care in the community. Its Medication Assistance Program is bolstered by a partnership with Spindale Drug, which gives the clinic rock bottom prices on commonly prescribed medications.

Other sources of funding come from grants, private donors, and the health center’s sliding scale fees for services.

The Rutherford County Health Center is taking new behavioral health care patients, the clinic is located at 187 West Main Street in Spindale. In addition to Medicaid and Medicare, the health center also accepts third-party insurance. To schedule an appointment, call 828-288-2881.