CareNet of Wilkes Counseling to be Involved in New Initiative with Wake Forest Baptist Health

CareNet of Wilkes Counseling, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide counseling, consultation, and educational services to all in need: integrating mental, physical, spiritual, and community health, had their Third Annual Season of Caring Banquet fundraiser on November 8 at the Stone Center in North Wilkesboro.  Funds are raised by the board to provide faith integrated counseling for those who are unable to afford needed services.  Faith integrated counseling goes beyond the traditional protocol of secular mental health agencies.  The licensed professional counselors represent various disciplines such as psychology, clinical social work, marriage and family therapy, and pastoral counseling; are active in their faith, and are attuned to spiritual issues as they assist clients in building upon the context of their own faith journey in the healing process.

CareNet of Wilkes is an affiliate of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center division of Faith and Health Ministries which exists to support patients spiritually, offering ministries of growth, hope, and healing. It is accredited by the Samaritan Institute. CareNet NC has been providing outpatient counseling services across NC since 1972.  It builds on a strong tradition of clinical education for ministers and chaplains that began with the School of Pastoral Care at Baptist Hospital in 1947.

Robert Willis, a family therapist at Wilkes CareNet, reported at the banquet that the local center currently has 247 open cases with clients ranging from ages 7 to 74. According to Willis, 70% of the women who come into counseling report that that they are survivors of childhood sexual abuse.  In his presentation, A Glimpse of Mental Health in Wilkes, Willis reported that in the last fiscal year, The Wilkes Department of Social Services had 181 adult protective service cases and 922 child protective cases.  He also said that Wilkes Regional Medical Center has 2 to 3 Emergency Room cases per day that pertain to mental health issues with an average stay in the ER of 80 hours before  placement in a facility is available.  A large percentage of the population (46.6) will have a diagnosable mental health need during the longevity of their lives.  CareNet of Wilkes has a goal of increasing their ability to address even more of the needs in Wilkes.

Dr. Gary Gunderson, the newly appointed Vice President for the Division of Faith and Health Ministries at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center was the guest speaker for the evening. He  is a nationally known expert and innovator at the intersection of faith and health and has recently been the Senior Vice President of Faith and Health at Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare in Memphis, Tennessee and served on the faculty of Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Gunderson has also worked extensively with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships during the last two presidential administrations in regards to faith and social innovation. In his role at Wake Forest Baptist, he provides leadership and direction for Faith and Health Ministries, oversight of spiritual care services to patient, families and medical center staff, and management and oversight for marketing and public relations service to more than 4,200 Baptist churches with 11.3 million congregants. CareNet Counseling is one of the four departments he will supervise.

Gunderson discussed his Memphis Model of bringing health care and the faith community together.  Wake Forest Baptist has brought him on board to bring this initiative to three communities that are served by Wake Forest Baptist: Wilkes, Lexington, and Rockingham County.  Baptist serves 8,000 patients per year from Wilkes and is interested in improving the lives and health of Wilkes citizens by integrating the faith community and their health.  This initiative can prove to be a valuable asset to the Wilkes community.  With the changes in the provision of health care in regards to limited amounts of funded hospitalizations, there is a focus on preventative medicine of which the faith community can assist in navigating.  Gunderson stated that after implementation of his program in the Memphis area, persons stayed out of the hospital 39% longer than those who were not connected with the faith community through the model.  Church caregivers of congregations were identified as making the difference through their development of trust, their competence through training, and the compassion shown to those served.  Dr. Gunderson emphasized how CareNet’s mission addresses making a difference in lives by including all areas: physical, mental, community, and spiritual.  He stressed the complexity of people and how the “eyes of faith” are able to see more than the government by developing a web of trust and connecting health and faith organizations which are inherently compassionate.  A large consideration is that physical health is immensely affected by one’s mental and spiritual well-being.  Thus, by addressing depression, anxiety, loneliness, stress, and other issues through building relationships; physical health is improved many times.

CareNet of Wilkes continued the conversation on November 9 by hosting a minister’s breakfast for local ministers to have a conversation with various representatives of Wake Forest Baptist Health:  Dr. Gunderson; Dr. Chris Gambill, Senior Consultant and Manager of Congregational Health Services;  Dr. Paul Mullen, Director of Church and Community Relations; and Dr. Fred Smith, Consultant with Wake Forest and faculty at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.   Information about the initiative and its implementation was presented.  Wilkes is 87th out of 100 counties in health indicators which gives more reason for the need of such a community model.  In the South, the primary social structure is still the church.  Thus, the rationale is provided for hospitals to be connected with the faith community in providing better health care.   Clergy were challenged to go back and look at their congregations through a new lens in how their congregations can be involved and served through this partnership.  Future design team meetings are to be held.

If you were unable to attend the Banquet and would like to contribute or find out more, please contact  CareNet Counseling of Wilkes at (336) 838-1644 or at 204 Jefferson Street, P.O. Box 1656 N. Wilkesboro, NC 28659.


Leave a comment


  1. Child abuse is a big problem. Something that all parents need to be aware of since majority of the times the abuser is close to family.

  1. The winding path to CareNet for Resident Robert Willis | CareNet Counseling

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: