With $40K infusion, new program seeks to expand mental health care in Dare County

By on October 19, 2023

(l. to r.) Patty McKenna, Outer Banks Relief Foundation; Jenniffer Albanese, Interfaith Community Outreach; Sheila Davies, Director Dare County Director Health and Human Services; Leigh Brinkley, Dare County Family Services Supervisor. (Photo credit: Kip Tabb/OBV)

“Life is tough for a lot of people,” said Sheila Davies, Dare County Director of Health and Human Services (DHHS), explaining why Sound Minds, a new mental health collaborative program between Dare County Health and Human Services, Interfaith Community Outreach and the Outer Banks Relief Foundation is so important. “You’ve got chronic issues and then you have acute issues that you’re dealing with. It’s significant.”

To highlight its 40th anniversary, the Outer Banks Community Foundation announced in March that it would award a $40,000 special impact grant to address mental health and substance abuse issues on the Outer Banks.

“[We] did a series of meetings with community leaders…and asked them, ‘What are the biggest community needs?’” said Chris Sawin, President of the Community Foundation. “Mental health was on everybody’s list.” And that $40,000 grant went to Sound Minds.

Sound Minds brings together three organizations, the DHHS, Interfaith Community Outreach (ICO) and the Outer Banks Relief Foundation (OBRF) that have been working together for some time. The new organization will improve sharing of resources among the organizations.

“It’s something that’s been happening organically already,” said Patty McKenna, Executive Director of the OBRF. “I think that besides the infusion of more resources, more funds that’s coming from the Community Foundation, it’s a chance to message to the community that this has been going on there are places to turn if you would like some assistance.”

Those funds will be critical for providing the help people need. McKenna and her counterpart at ICO, Executive Director Jenniffer Albanese, emphasized that their organizations will do everything they can to support clients who need mental health services. Both organizations budget money for mental health support, but the funds are limited.

“We have a client at ICO that we’ve paid for mental health. She has no mental health capacity” in her health insurance, Albanese explained. “And we have spent $3,000 already on that mental health. We’re at our limit. I don’t have unlimited funds. And she needs a little bit more.”

In addition to creating a better funding source for mental health services, Sound Minds will also streamline a system that in the past, relied upon phone calls and personal conversations to find help for people in need.

“It’s been a piecemeal approach case by case,” Davies said. “Whereas now we’ll have a referral pipeline and process.”

Part of that referral pipeline is a simplified application for assistance that is shared by the three agencies. With questions and instruction in English and Spanish, the application is available online, and is modeled after the process Dare County used for registering people for the COVID vaccine.

Because of the experience the agencies have had helping people through difficult times, there was agreement that there had to be one simplified application.

DHHS Family Services Supervisor Leigh Brinkley referred to the aftermath of major weather events to describe what happens when national, state and even local agencies come to help, each with their own applications.

“Post disaster, post hurricane. We battle every time when all of these organizations come in and want to help us, but they all have their own application.” The victims have “already told their story and they’re sitting on a soggy couch, so they don’t really need to again,” she said.

Paying for the mental health services is at the heart of the Sound Minds mission and that is something the nonprofits have struggled to provide.

“There are multiple times a year when {Dare County] Social Services is helping a family,” McKenna said. “They identify a need for counseling. They even identify a counselor who has an opening and is ready to help. And the missing piece sometimes is paying the bill.”

The OBCF and ICO have each contributed an additional $5,000 to the fund, so the program is starting with $50,000. Although that may seem like a substantial investment in mental health support on the Outer Banks, it will help, but not solve the problem, according to Albanese.

“We’re probably going to cap it at $1,000 a person. Some might only [need three sessions] and some might be fourteen sessions,” she said, adding that “We’re not going to say, ‘okay, you’re done.’”

The partner organizations recognize the $40,000 or $50,000 is a good first step, but Albanese and McKenna are aware that there is a limit to how many people they can reach.

“We’ve estimated forty people. If we can impact forty people, that’s a huge difference,” Albanese said.

The issues confronting Sound Minds, however, are more than financial. There is a shortage of mental health providers in the area, and they haven’t been taking new patients. That has improved recently Davies noted.

“It’s opened up a little bit [in the] last month. A number of them said, ‘Yes, we can start accepting new patients,’” she said.

There is also a perception that there is shame or personal failure in asking for help during emotionally difficult times, Davies notes. But the hope is that as the process of seeking help becomes easier and more accepted, those perceptions will change.

“It’s okay to need mental health treatment,” Albanese said.


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


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