Archived Opinion

Free clinic plugs mental health holes

By Marth Teater • Guest Columnist

The Good Samaritan Clinic of Haywood County has served the medical needs of our community since 1999. In 2007 the clinic started a mental health program funded by two multi-year grants. Funding for the program ended in 2008, and the clinic has been utilizing funds from individuals in the community to sustain the program until funds become available.

We have applied for funding from three major grantors, but even if we get those grants, funds will not be available until the summer. Without immediate funding the clinic will be hard pressed to find money to continue the program.

In 2008 the Good Samaritan Clinic provided over 1,400 therapy visits at no cost to the patients. Currently the clinic has two mental health counselors on staff. Both have master’s degrees and several years of experience. The clinic also utilizes volunteer counselors and student interns.

Clinic patients may receive up to eight individual counseling visits with one of the clinic counselors to help improve their mental and physical well-being.

We anticipate serving more than 1,680 patients in 2009. At about $100 per visit, we are providing $168,000 worth of visits per year for $50,400 since our counselors work for a much reduced rate. The savings to our community are significant.

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The clinic is supported by area churches, individuals, civic groups, and grantors. Haywood County and the United Way contribute as well. This support helps the clinic to continue to provide medical services to uninsured adults in our county.

“Our general operating funds are not used for the mental health program,” said Donda Bennett, executive director for GSC. “This program operates solely on grant funding and donations.”

Although funds were applied for in early 2009 the clinic will not find out if they are being funded until early June. The only way to continue this program is to appeal to the community for emergency funds.

Current clinic counselors are Art Dosch and Sequoyah Rich. Both are master’s level practitioners with a wealth of experience and a desire to serve those in need. I am the director of mental health services and oversee the counseling program of the clinic.

The counselors work as a team with the health care providers; medical director Don Teater, MD, and Kristin Gruner, PA. This coordination of care has tremendous advantages to more traditional models of care that treat mental and physical health separately.

The clinic has the capacity to provide about 140 client visits monthly, or 1,600 annually. Providing this mental health care benefits the entire community in many ways. By keeping people emotionally stable we will see a reduction in emergency room and urgent care visits, fewer interventions needed by law enforcement, and healthier individuals and families.

To find out more about the Good Samaritan Clinic contact executive director Donda Bennett at 828.454.5487 or visit the Web site at

(Teater is available to discuss the mental health program at 828.454.5287, ext.1009, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The clinic provides speaker and programs to any community group. Donations are tax deductible. To designate a donation for the mental health program note that on the check. Mail donations to Good Samaritan Clinic, 34 Sims Circle, Waynesville, N.C., 28786.)

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