CareNet Counseling, a Leader in Innovation in a Time of Change

Whether you were aware of it or not, November 12 was an important day for CareNet Counseling. A meeting was held, post-election, to gather people from large-scale faith-integrated counseling centers from around the country to talk about the potential implications of health care reform beginning in 2014 in light of the Affordable Care Act. Approximately 20 representatives from these counseling centers as well as the CEOs from the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and Samaritan’s Institute and John Bartlett of the Carter Center discussed how to form a learning community, support one another and seek creative and innovate responses to these potential federal requirements.


When other organizations, such as the Carter Center, look around the country for creative, competent, highly reputable institutions, CareNet is a national leader. Simultaneously, CareNet looks to the Carter Center as an excellent external resource that has a different pulse on the federal response to the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, John Bartlett has specific experience with faith communities and behavioral health. While some of the conversation focused on the financial implications of ObamaCare, the intention of the meeting was to think about the volume of relationships these counseling centers have with faith communities around the country and then dream of ways to do something new and creative outside of the operational changes.


It is telling that CareNet Counseling would be the host for just such a conversation. Certainly our partner Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is viewed as a leader in creativity since its foundation. About every twenty years, the Division of Faith and Health Ministries of Wake Forest Health births a new fundamental and creative insight. It was one of the first in the nation to create the field of professional chaplaincy. Next CareNet Counseling with the intertwining of faith and mental health began. Then we saw the need for the Center for Congregational Health and an understanding of the congregation as a living entity. We are now at another crossroads for a fundamental innovation in the radically changing relationships between the formal ‘reimbursed provider systems’ (the hospitals) and the community partners. A shift is taking place to view more long-term relationships, done in partnerships, to work with clients. Now that we know that the Obama Administration has four more years and the broad outlines of the Affordable Care Act will hold in place, we have permission to create radical new relationships with non-traditional partnerships.


One example of how CareNet has taken the lead is with the new integration of therapists at primary care facilities like Pembroke and Downtown Plaza with more locations to come. Another example is future integration of weight management clinics, nutritionists and clinicians. President Steve Scoggin reflects, “We’ve been so used to an outpatient ‘y’all come to us’ model. What we’re really inviting in our network is that we need to go where the action is happening…more of a community engagement model for behavioral health. We’ll continue to be a place where patients will be referred, but we’ll expand that and go where these folks live and are. Primary care is just the tip of the iceberg.”


The next conversation for this group in December will be online to discuss and introduce the initiative SBIRT, a strategic and brief intervention program to do screening assessments for early alcohol and substance abuse in primary care settings. CareNet has suggested that the faith context is a place to do these screenings as well and that there is a place for the faith community to participate in this process. Other additional conversations are taking place at the state level. CareNet has already been invited into innovative dialogue between public and private institutions.


It is important to recognize the significance CareNet’s roll is playing right now “as a thought leader and as a model of creative practice that is attracting attention around the country,” states Gary Gunderson, Vice President of the Division of Faith and Leadership. “The reason CareNet is able to do that is because of its history of creativity and integrity. When people look around in this highly creative, open time that we’re living in right now, what you’re looking for is people that have the values you trust, are about the right things, and have competence. CareNet is one of the organizations they want to be learning with collaboratively.”

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  1. A Partnership Between the Carter Center and CareNet, Inc | CareNet Counseling

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