(As published in the Danville Register & Bee, 07/05/2011) 

People in economically challenged Danville and Pittsylvania County are stressed out.  While resources exist for those dealing with serious mental illnesses, many residents dealing with common problems like depression or anxiety can’t afford to see a counselor.  That’s why local health providers partnered in “A New Lease on Life” program to place a licensed counselor in The Free Clinic of Danville and Piedmont Access to Health Services’ community medical centers in Danville and Chatham.  The counselor is employed by Danville-Pittsylvania Community Services.

Glenn Scarboro, behavioral health clinician and licensed clinical social worker, began seeing patients June 16.  Scarboro, a Danville native, has 40 years experience.  The goal is to see 100 patients over a 12-month period. It typically takes between eight and 10 visits for a patient to accomplish his or her goal.  “I like to see people who think they can’t feel better feel better,” Scarboro said. “I just enjoy seeing people make changes when they don’t think they can.”

More than 1,000 patients between PATHS and The Free Clinic were identified as having mild or moderate mental health problems, said William Crumpton, PATHS Chief Operating Officer. Most patients don’t have health insurance.  Danville and Pittsylvania County are mental health professional shortage areas, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Many patients don’t have strong support systems, like family or friends, said Sandy Stephenson, DPCS Director of Adult Clinical Services.  Often, they just want someone to listen, Scarboro said.

Patients can see the counselor at their primary care doctor’s office, which alleviates the stigma of seeking help and also more efficiently delivers care. Primary care doctors can prescribe appropriate medication, but therapy improves the effectiveness of treatment.  That’s especially important when chronic stress can lead to health problems like heart disease or cancer, substance abuse, accidents or even suicide. Managing chronic health problemsin itself is a stressor, said Free Clinic Executive Director, Patti Schwemer.  “It’s all interrelated,” Schwemer said.

The Virginia Health Care Foundation awarded about $109,000 for the three-year program.  The Danville Regional Foundation contributed $50,000 to the health-care foundation for the matching grant.  Crumpton hopes to continue the program and aims to one day have one counselor in each of the three settings.  "For the individual, we want to have an improved quality of life -- to be happier, more balanced,"  Stepehenson said.

In turn, these individuals will be higher functioning and able to participate positively in society.

“The health of your community starts at home,” Crumpton said.

Learn more

» For more information or to help support the program, call PATHS at (434) 791-4122 or call The Free Clinic of Danville, which sees uninsured patients with chronic conditions, at (434) 799-1223.