By Charity Rogers, MA, LPC, LCDC, Behavioral Health Director, Smithville Community Clinic
Published May 17, 2021
When a person gets sick or needs medical attention, they should have equitable access to the care they need. No one should have to choose between going to see the doctor or putting food on the table to ensure their health and well-being. As the only free clinic in Bastrop County, the Smithville Community Clinic has been supporting people who suffer from illness, pain and depression driven by its mission to provide hope and healing to those without means. The weight of this past year has certainly demonstrated the need for a caring community resource – particularly one that prioritizes mental and behavioral support services.
The Smithville Community Clinic opened its doors in 2013 as a not-for-profit medical clinic placing an emphasis on preventative care. In 2015, behavioral health screenings and counseling referrals were added. The Clinic didn’t happen overnight. Much like Smithville, it’s unique place where people worked hard and came together as a community to create a resource for the region’s vulnerable neighbors to build a culture of health. From medical professionals, volunteers to community donors and the business community, the Clinic has become a highly effective partnership model.
In 2019, the Clinic was awarded a grant from Americares that propelled our behavioral health services by allowing us to create the Smithville Community Clinic Behavioral Health Department. Through that department, the clinic now provides quality, long-term behavioral health counseling and care to those without financial means. During the first year of operation, over 850 community members engaged with our department through screenings, classes, support groups, or counseling. Our team of Licensed Professional Counselors and a Licensed Social Worker treated over 120 clients in individual or family weekly sessions.
But in March 2020, COVID-19 changed everything.
The clinic was determined not to abandon its clients just as the world seemed to be spiraling out of control. Through funding secured from St. David’s Foundation, United Way, Direct Relief, and individual community donors, counselors and behavioral health advocates were able to continue providing vital telehealth and integrated services in this time of crisis.
During this challenging and isolating time, every member of the team remained committed to providing hope and healing to those without means—even from a distance.
The behavioral health advocates were able to assist with setting up virtual appointments, conducting behavioral health screenings, and maintaining contact with clients who needed services that required a face-to-face visit (e.g., dental work) so their appointments were prioritized once in-person visits were deemed safe.
Behavioral health clients were able to receive care virtually throughout the duration of the shutdown period. And as this approach evolved, we learned that sessions were taking on a new dynamic. Suddenly, the trauma was immediate – in the moment – and it could not be changed. The uncertainty of the future, fear of not knowing how to navigate the ever-changing dynamics of the pandemic paired with the sudden loneliness and isolation was creating a new degree of mental health crisis that for many of our patients, sat atop existing stressors.
Another unprecedented challenge to providing services during this time was that our providers were experiencing the same uncertainty and trauma as their clients. To combat these feelings of confusion, fear, and loneliness, the team remained available to our clients, but ensured they were also available to one another for professional, confidential consults as well.
Our client population has grown since last spring. The team continues to provide check-in support weekly and biweekly counseling sessions. In addition, they have now partnered with other community services to provide behavioral health support in book clubs, schools, and at events.
Our department is not just part of the clinic, but part of the community.
Throughout this journey, one thing is clear: our community is resilient and our connection to one another is vital to maintain emotional well-being. Our Clinic has demonstrated its ability to not only provide access for physical wellness and check-ups but also provide connection to mental well-being and support overall well-being during a complicated time, a true community hub of health.
COVID-19 has changed the world. There have been many horrific things that have happened because of the pandemic; however, I believe that it has also opened the eyes of many people and encouraged discussion of the importance of behavioral health care services as a part of routine care to achieve hope and healing.
To learn more about Smithville Community Clinic or to schedule a behavioral health appointment please visit https://www.smithvillecommunityclinic.org or call: (512) 575-3021.
Since 2004, Charity Rogers has worked to help others overcome the hardships that life can bring including work as an addiction counselor, primarily in the corrections setting. In 2013, Charity left agency work to private practice. She contracted with an online addictions program (Lionrock Recovery) where she began helping family members understand their loved one’s addiction and recovery. In 2014, Charity graduated from Liberty University with a Masters in Professional Counseling and began working as an Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Since that time she has increased her specialties to include working with couples, trauma, adjustment to phases of life, and other stressors that lead to distress. In 2019 Charity was named the Director of Behavioral Health Services with the Smithville Community Clinic. With her dream team of counselors, advocates, and all of the clinic personnel and providers, the clinic strives to provide quality, long term behavioral health care from a holistic, integrative approach. While she’s not working, Charity enjoys homeschooling her daughters, traveling with her husband, and enjoying the outdoors with friends.