Mobile Clinics Rooted in Supporting Mental Health in Eastern NC

Monarch's Mobile Clinic Integrated Care Clinic staff stand in front of the vehicles.

Meet Monarch Mobile Integrated Care Clinic staff that includes, left; Team Lead Nicole B. Richardson, RN, and Peer Support Specialist Joseph Campbell; right, Team Lead Kelly Hagwood, RN, and Peer Support Specialist Winston Thomas.

Nicole B. Richardson, Joseph Campbell, Kelly Hagwood and Winston Thomas have an unusual work environment. Their offices are 29-feet long, orange-and-white and travel to serve Eastern North Carolina communities in need of mental health services.

On one Mobile Clinic, Nicole B. Richardson is the registered nurse and team lead, while Peer Support Specialist (PSS) Joseph Campbell serves as driver and support to people seeking service. Monarch Team Lead Kelly Hagwood, RN, and Peer Support Specialist Winston Thomas staff the second Mobile Clinic.

The Monarch Mobile Integrated Care Clinics serve Gates, Nash, Hertford, Northampton, Bertie and Halifax Counties bringing mental health and substance use disorder services to locations convenient within the community.

Both Nicole and Joseph have close ties to the mental health field. Nicole pressed pause on her college education to care for her mother who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She describes the experience as coming full circle. She feels fortunate to be able to bring personal experiences to her role and also knows the importance of involving families in an individual’s healing.

“I can recognize the turmoil before they speak it from the questions that I ask. I can sense what they are going through before they speak it and it helps takes away the anxiety. We are normal and not intimidating. We are not trying to commit or judge you,” she explains of the casual environment the staff creates on the Mobile Clinics.

Nicole shares that her work within the mental health field is in honor of her late mother who passed away 23 years ago, noting that at that time her family did not understand the complexities of mental illness in relation to physical health. “Mental health is not a bad thing but we need to learn to go through it and not be so guarded and intimidated,” she observes, stating that she knows her mom would be proud of her work in mental health care.

For many years, Joseph cared for others and continues in his role as a PSS. He has worked with children with autism, for a health care system and cared for his mom while she was ill and until her death. “Anything that I can do to help someone, I want to do. I want to lift them up,” he says, adding that he sees his reward in watching someone’s progress.

“My motivation is that I was put here for a reason. My motivation is to help anyone I can . . . It isn’t about the money. My motivation is thanking God first of all and then look forward to helping people,” he says. “I want to see people do better. I saw myself do better,” explaining that he once experienced homelessness and is in recovery from a substance use disorder.

Both Nicole and Joseph agree that a deep-rooted stigma continues about reaching out for mental health support among the Eastern North Carolinians they serve.

“The community support is not the same across the board and the stigma behind it is prevalent. Why? In a way, it is more of a cultural thing. Most people think if you had someone in your family with mental illness they will pray about it,” Nicole believes, adding that families prefer to keep mental health needs private but since the pandemic, conversation is slowly turning to acceptance. “People are still ashamed to acknowledge they have depression or a substance use disorder.”

She describes that the Monarch Mobile Clinic is a moving billboard but she wants the communities they serve to know they are there to serve and that confidentiality is a priority, no matter why they climb the steps into the mobile clinic for help.

To make an appointment for the Mobile Clinic, call (866) 272-7826 or for more details and an updated calendar visit the Mobile Clinic website page on Monarch’s website. Click on the video below to meet staff and find out why the Mobile Clinic doors are open to help anyone in need of mental health support.

Posted on: Friday July 7, 2023