Success Stories: Chapter 17 – Shepherd’s Clinic
Since 1991, Shepherd’s Clinic has been providing healthcare to medically uninsured adults in Baltimore. The clinic was founded by individuals from Seventh Baptist Church and Union Memorial Hospital, caring for patients in a church-owned row house basement. In 2006, the clinic moved to a permanent facility. In 2008, the Joy Wellness Center became an integral component of the organization’s services, providing a range of wellness programs that help to build self-sufficiency.
The mission of Shepherd’s Clinic and the Joy Wellness Center continues to provide comprehensive health care and wellness services for those who cannot afford commercial insurance, yet do not qualify for government assistance. With eight full-time staff members, nine part-time staff, and over 250 physicians, nurses, and other volunteers providing a full continuum of care, the clinic offers innovative, cost-effective, and patient centered services unlike any other organization in Baltimore. Through their program, approximately 800 individuals receive care annually.
The Behavioral Health Program assesses patients’ mental health needs and provides psychotherapy, psychiatry services, case management resources, and psychoeducation sessions. Shepherd’s Clinic continues to integrate a primary care opioid treatment program (PCOTP) as part of the existing Behavioral Health Program. In addition to services that may include medication-assisted therapy for opioid use disorders, routine and special diagnostic procedures, and toxicology tests, PCOTP patients are required to receive psychiatric/psychological assessments and treatment through the program.
The vast majority of the clients in the Behavioral Health Program are uninsured or underinsured adults age 19 and older. Most of them are diagnosed with at least one chronic disease. Nearly all of the patients reside in households with incomes less than $40,000. More than two-thirds of the clinic’s patients are African American and 64% of the patients are women. Patients are a mixture of working and under- or unemployed Baltimore City residents, and the majority are heads of household.
Shepherd’s Clinic’s Behavioral Health Program has helped to address the need for critical behavioral health resources for the uninsured in Baltimore. By growing the program, incorporating primary care opioid treatment, and instituting a Community Health Worker, the program is able to meet the needs of the greater community. Long term benefits include: greater numbers of Baltimore City’s uninsured being served, stigmas in low-income communities around mental health and substance use are being addressed, an increase in access to opioid treatment, and a reduction in the number of patients using hospital Emergency Departments for care. Through the clinic, their clients have gained access to innovative and expansive behavioral health, medical, and wellness care. Here are a few of their comments:
- “We were all put in a tailspin with COVID-19, and I am very happy to be able to meet for therapy through telehealth services. Being able to have counseling through all of this has been very helpful.”
- “I always say that Baltimore needs more clinics like Shepherd’s Clinic. The staff at Shepherd’s Clinic are the best, the very best! They will help you out in any way they can; I can say they’re like my family to me. The Clinic front desk where you check in with Luke is fantastic. He is always on time with everything I need with my appointment and with notes for my job and my referrals. The nurses at the clinic are super fantastic. They have the biggest hearts ever. My nurse at Shepherd’s is Michele. I do not know what I would do if I did not have her. She helps me with my meds and she talks with the doctors and other nurses for me.”
- “This place and the doctors have saved my life through therapy work.”
Success Story #1:
“I initially sought out counseling at Shepherd’s Clinic feeling helpless and hopeless–full of pain, fear, and near defeat as a result of constant verbal strife and sometimes physical strife with my family: my mother, my husband, the kids. I hoped for help so desperately, yet assumed counseling would consist of not much more than me getting things off of my chest and walking away with a kind word or two of brief encouragement. Yet it has been so much more! What I didn’t expect was for my life, my mindset, and my experience to change so drastically and positively!
Not long after beginning counseling, I went from hopeless to hopeful, impressed by new information and new perspectives shared by my counselor and, in turn, excited about change, already seeing its beginnings in myself and sometimes with the other family members. I went from feeling helpless to feeling empowered by the new skills and perspectives introduced and repeated faithfully to me by my counselor.
My counselor does not just listen. She engages me. To my initial surprise, she introduced me to and began guiding me on a path previously unknown to me–a path I didn’t know existed and certainly one I didn’t think was possible for me to trek: a path of change, self-growth, and so full of hope! I’m not just a spectator or victim on this path. I’m an active participant with victories along the way, learning to recognize and adopt new and positive perspectives, learning to recognize the difference between facts and feelings, resulting in more positive dialogue and interactions with my family, and in turn, being a light for those who aren’t in counseling yet are observing. My guide (counselor) consistently and skillfully introduces me to new skills, equips me with new tools, challenges me with different perspectives and info new to me, and shows me how to use all of these to improve myself, improve my communications, and improve my interactions and my relationships.
The best part is she does it so gently yet clearly and she spots and praises wins that I often miss or mistake for losses. I am learning to spot the positive through the negative more skillfully by watching her example. It’s wonderful!
Some of the most helpful tools have been: becoming aware of the importance of self-care and implementing it; learning how to recognize negative thinking and process it as such, countering negative thinking with the proven, often more positive reality; using coping skills and self-awareness to avoid escalating. All this has been and continues to be by the guidance of my counselor. And the journey keeps going. I look forward to my sessions and many times can’t believe how far we have traveled. The road to better is not always easy, yet it is totally attainable and the best part is we don’t need to take the road alone in the dark. There are such committed, wonderful, skilled, positive, dedicated guides (counselors). Thank you, Shepherd’s Clinic!” – J.F.
Success Story #2:
“As an intern, I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to spend a year volunteering with the Shepherd’s Clinic Behavioral Health Department. Despite the challenges of an ongoing global health crisis, I have been privileged to participate in the clinic’s efforts to continue to provide services to the surrounding community using virtual modalities and prioritizing safety standards while providing quality patient care. I have had firsthand experience in observing the benefit of services in the lives of patients who participate in both individual and group psychotherapy opportunities. Shepherd’s Clinic has provided me with the unique experience of engaging in collaborative care between Behavioral, Clinical, and Joy Wellness center services. I look forward to applying the holistic care model that Shepherd’s Clinic embodies as I continue my own training and practice journey.”
“I grew up in the greater Baltimore area and attended local grade schools, I was out of state of undergrad but returned to Baltimore and am currently enrolled in the JHU Clinical Mental Health Counseling degree program (graduating in May). I had been struggling to find a field placement site last spring during the COVID crisis and ended up getting connected with Haley through the Hopkins field placement coordinator. I live close to Shepherd’s Clinic so have enjoyed being a part of an organization committed to meeting local needs and inspiring community growth. I’ve been working as a Practicum/Intern student since last June. I am currently undecided on my next professional placement but have been inspired by the clinic’s approach to providing holistic, quality care integrated with community advocacy and hope to continue that work in my own professional journey.”
The Qlarant Foundation awarded a $15,000 grant to Shepherd’s Clinic to help support the addition of a Community Health Worker and a Behavioral Health Coordinator. “The Behavioral Health Program provides a vital service to a very vulnerable population in Baltimore City”, said Dominic Szwaja, PA, Chair, Qlarant Foundation. “We commend the organization for being so pro-active in integrating the medical health and mental health treatment of its patients. We are impressed by the Clinic’s commitment to its patients as evidenced by its ability to continue to provide therapy during the pandemic.”