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Spartanburg, region gets $11M grant to expand mental health services in underserved areas

Herald-Journal - 9/14/2021

Sep. 14--The Spartanburg Area Mental Health Center has been awarded an $11 million federal grant over four years to expand mental health services in underserved areas of Spartanburg, Cherokee and Union counties.

Mental health center Executive Director Roger Williams said some of the grant funds may be used to open more peer living rooms modeled after the Eubanks Center Peer Living Room that opened in Spartanburg in 2018.

The clinician-staffed peer living room concept is designed to provide a warm, comfortable place in an informal setting for mental health patients who can receive peer support before a crisis arises.

It also helps cut down crisis visits to the crowded hospital emergency department, where many mental health patients end up, even though they may not have had an emergency, according to Roger Williams, director of the Spartanburg Mental Health Center.

"Our mission is to make sure that children and families with severe needs can access the resources they need," he said. "We want to provide an alternative for the child and family facing crisis that might bring them to the emergency room."

He said the grant, which breaks down to $2.75 million a year, will be used to hire 21 staff members ranging from peer support to care givers to a psychologist. Currently, the mental health center employs 152 people, he said.

He said the first hire will be a project coordinator to oversee the hiring and program development. He said he hopes to hire a diverse group that can identify with the people they are serving and break through any language barriers.

To deliver the care, Williams said the mental health center will work with a network of program providers such as the United Way of the Piedmont and its sponsorship of the Behavioral Health Trask Force, and the Mary Black Foundation'sChild and Adolescent Mental Health Study Group.

Williams said Spartanburg Area Mental Health Center already has locations in the cities of Spartanburg, Gaffney and Union.

The purpose of the grant is to expand services to minority populations, whether in urban or rural areas, he said.

"A particular focus of the grant is identifying two populations -- black indigenous people of color and the Latinx community," Williams said.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there are several obstacles minorities face in receiving mental health care, including: Here are some of them:

Transportation issues, difficulty finding childcare/taking time off work

The belief that mental health treatment "doesn't work"

The high level of mental health stigma in minority populations

A mental health system weighted heavily toward non-minority values and culture norms

Racism, bias, and discrimination in treatment settings

Language barriers and an insufficient number of providers who speak languages other than English

A lack of adequate health insurance coverage (and even for people with insurance, high deductibles and co-pays make it difficult to afford).

The University of South Carolina Department of Nursing also reported that minorities are less likely to report symptoms of mental illness, for a variety of reasons.

Williams said Spartanburg Area Mental Health Center provides transportation, eliminating that obstacle.

"It's not a physical barrier," he said of transportation. "There is a perception that the care is not geared toward people like you, however you define you. We need to make sure our services are not just lip service to diversity, equity and inclusion, and make sure we are actually doing that."

Contact Bob Montgomery at


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