Eubanks highlights opening of peer-support mental health 'living room'
Herald-Journal - 10/4/2018
Oct. 05--Retired Judge Ray C. Eubanks stood tall Thursday, shaking hands and thanking those who made Spartanburg's new mental health peer-support "living room" possible.
It was the grand opening of the Ray C. Eubanks Jr. Support Center at the former Access Health facility on Serpentine Drive.
"This was a complete surprise to me," Eubanks said of the center being named in his honor. "This is a beautiful place. It's so meaningful to be situated where it is."
The living room is a place where mental health patients can go relax and talk with peer counselors -- those who have been through addiction and mental health issues of their own.
The facility is located near the Spartanburg Medical Center emergency room, where until now some patients feeling a crisis coming on ended up -- either there or in jail.
Thursday's event was particularly special to Eubanks, 84, who operated a drug and alcohol detox center on North Spring Street in Spartanburg until June 2010 when it closed due to lack of funds.
Eubanks has also presided over drug court, a place where first-time offenders can go to receive a reduced sentence in exchange for seeking treatment.
"It's nice it can be named for my dad," said Eubanks' daughter Kellie Eubanks Piper, who flew in from Fargo, N.D., for the opening. "Peer counseling is much needed."
The new clinician-staffed center is called a living room because it was designed with a patient's comfort in mind, an informal setting where he or she can receive support. There are four peer counselors.
It has a kitchen, couch, chairs, dining table, spaces for talking and listening to music or using a computer.
It also has a reassurance line operated by a volunteer who follows up with patients to remind them of an appointment, or just to say hello.
The center is open 1 to 9 p.m. weekdays at no charge to residents of Spartanburg, Union and Cherokee counties. No appointment is necessary.
It is operated by the Spartanburg Mental Health Center, and the result of efforts by the Spartanburg Area Behavioral Health Task Force, which was formed by the United Way of the Piedmont.
Task force co-chairs Tom Barnet and Heather Witt were pleased to see their efforts come to fruition.
"This place is important for people who maybe don't have a support network. They can be welcomed without judgment," Witt said.
Witt said peer support is an "upstream approach," one that seeks to address an issue before it becomes a crisis and to reduce the burdens on the emergency rooms and on law enforcement, both of which have seen large numbers people dealing with mental health issues.
Sonja McCullough, an investigator with the Spartanburg Police Department, said she hopes people will use the living room.
"It's something that's very much needed," she said. "There are a lot of homeless on the street and mentally ill who don't have the means to see someone."
Sharyn Pittman, executive director of the National Alliance On Mental Illness Spartanburg chapter, said she has already begun referring patients to the living room.
"This is exciting for Spartanburg," she said. "Peer support fits in with the NAMI model. People with mental illness receive better empathy."
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