Mental health volunteers needed

(Published by Bluffton Today)

Bluffton Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine is in search of licensed professionals looking to give back to the community where they live and work.

The practice is seeking trained mental health specialists to serve as volunteers at its Bluffton and Ridgeland clinics.

“Many patients coming to the clinic have health problems that contribute to employment issues, relationship problems and functioning in the world,” said Dr. Helene Stoller, a 25-year psychologist volunteer at the clinic.

The practice opened in 2011 and was modeled after Dr. Jack McConnell’s Hilton Head Volunteers in Medicine, which started in 1991. It caters to patients without insurance who are low-income or below poverty level status and in need of medical care.

BJVIM provides its services free of charge to those who qualify and live and work in greater Bluffton or Jasper County. It often refers patients to other community practices if it doesn’t offer the services they need.

About 10 doctors volunteer their time to work at the practice. Stoller currently serves as the only mental health professional on staff at BJVIM. She spends four hours a week meeting with patient and doctors.

“There is a lot of need here,” said Dr. Ronald Smith, medical director with Bluffton Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine. “We want all health professionals to think about volunteering; we need all levels.”

Stoller said with more than 2,500 patients relying on BJVIM for their medical needs, having only one mental health provider presents a gap in services.

“You have to want to do this,” Smith said. “I volunteer here and I see patients as a doctor two days a week and it makes me feel good that I can help people that are in need. It would be the same way in the mental health area.”

Smith said mental health issues can range from depression and anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We talk about intervening before something bad happens and that is hard to do anyway, but if you don’t have any treatment where the patients can go, it is really difficult then,” Smith said.

Mental health specialists who are interested in volunteering are encouraged to call Pam Toney at 843-706-7090, Ext. 104.