LUMBERTON — The former president and CEO of Southeastern Regional Medical Center knows the important role that Robeson County Family Counseling Center has played over the years in the treatment of individuals with mental health disorders and substance abuse addictions.
“Who would meet the needs of these people if the Family Counseling Center was not here in Lumberton?” Luckey Welsh, now the CEO of Cherry Hospital, one of North Carolina’s three state-run mental health hospitals, asked supporters of the faith-based counseling center during a fundraising luncheon Thursday. “You want to provide the services needed by these people in the local community. You want to intervene early in the treatment of these people so that they can be treated in a familiar environment. They should not have to seek treatment outside of the county.”
Welsh was a keynote speaker at the counseling center’s Silent Samaritan Society luncheon held Thursday at Robeson Community College. The fundraiser for the center, located at 202 W. 15th St., was attended by about 30.
Robeson Family Counseling Center opened its doors in 1996 and serves clients in Lumberton, Pembroke and Whiteville areas. It provides outpatient counseling services combined with traditional church pastoral care for all ages with mental disorders and substance abuse addictions.
The center provides services for individuals, couples and families, regardless of a person’s ability to pay. According to David Crenshaw, the director of the center and a licensed therapist, 440 “individuals and families” last year were the recipients of a total of 3,000 counseling hours provided by the center’s counselors. Crenshaw said that the center will soon employ five counselors, including himself.
Crenshaw said that the center presently provides services at its office in Lumberton, Pembroke Pediatrics, and the Columbus Medical Center in Whiteville.
“We hope to soon expand to other area clinics,” he said.
The center refers those with mental health issues to area medical centers, including Pembroke Pediatrics. Dr. Joey Bell, of Pembroke Pediatrics, said Thursday that having a Robeson Family Counseling Center counselor see his patients at his office is a great benefit for those patients.
“We are seeing more children these days with mental health and behavior problems,” Bell said. “When we used to refer patients out (for counseling) they wouldn’t go. At the office they feel more comfortable and there is no stigma.”
Welsh commended the Family Counseling Center for providing care locally that can prevent those with mental and substance abuse problems from ending up in the state mental health system.
“The state system is a safety net for patients who can’t be successfully treated anywhere else,” Welsh said. “About 3 percent, the most challenging, end up in a state facility.”
According to Welsh, about 50 percent of those living in the United States will experience some kind of mental health issue during their lives. That includes about 5 million in North Carolina, he said.
Welsh said that there is still a “stigma” attached to those who suffer from mental illness.
“You may not remember numbers I gave today, but I hope you feel more compassion for these individuals,” Welsh told those at the luncheon. “These are God’s children and faith-based Robeson County Family Counseling Center cares for these individuals.”