Client William Shavuo with support team members’ Darius Kolar, Joshua Allender, and Joel Hill, standing behind.
Mental Health Support Goes the Extra Mile

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This article was written by Mia Khatib of The Triangle Tribune.


Mental health challenges have no bounds and nonprofit Easterseals UCP knows that.

That’s why it helps people of all ages with varying mental health and substance abuse challenges and disabilities thrive in their day-to-day life through personalized treatment and support services.

Client William Shavuo with support team members’ Darius Kolar, Joshua Allender, and Joel Hill, standing behind.

Client William Shavuo with support team members’ Darius Kolar, Joshua Allender, and Joel Hill, standing behind.

ESUCP’s services encompass everything from therapy, psychiatric evaluations and medication management to employment and housing support. Vice president of behavioral health Robin Henderson-Wiley said, in addition to outpatient facilities, they have community-based programs and crisis response teams that meet people where they are.

“They may be in a park, under a bridge or homeless; it doesn’t matter,” she said. “It’s a community-based service, and it’s so important because a lot of our people can’t get to us, so we have to get to them.”

Follow-up is important, Henderson-Wiley said, and until all of a person’s social determinants of health are met, they will provide ongoing care for their clients in the community or connect them with alternative resources or providers. Clients are often referred to the nonprofit, but they also accept same-day outpatient walk-ins and help people who call.

“One life change could cause you to spiral, develop an addiction or experience depression, and so it baffles my mind when State budget cuts are made, mental health services are often hardest hit.” she said. “Providers are inadequately reimbursed to provide the services, yet we are still providing them.”

While clients in the program work with an employment specialist to find and apply to jobs, peer mentor Joel Hill does the “life piece.” He connects them to other resources, helps them apply for disability or housing, or just to cheer them on.

“It’s kind of a mental anxiety to have to do everything [all alone],” he said. “Employment is a very good thing for someone’s mental health but also having assistance, because it’s hard to go to work and be on an empty stomach [or when] you don’t have anywhere to stay.”

Robin Davis, one of Hill’s mentees, came to the nonprofit as a social worker struggling with her own mental health. She now works at ESUCP assisting others and told The Tribune that she’s not surprised Hill recently received back-to-back awards because “he’s really on top of things.”

“When you’re sick, not feeling well or in pain, you just don’t really have the energy to go by yourself,” she said. “In the last month and a half, I’ve had three surgeries and Joel just did things that I had forgotten… he just keeps me on top of it.”

The nonprofit, which serves North Carolina and Virginia, is also known for its periodic at-home and community-based support and residential services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

ESUCP Vice President of Home and Community Based Services, Liz Hill, said her son has cerebral palsy and their care providers support him and other clients with everything from getting dressed and taking medication to establishing independence and assisting with decision-making.

“We’re constantly taking the time to get to know them, identify what their needs are, what their skills are, and building on it,” she said. “It’s like another person to do the things they are not able to do. So being their arms, being their legs.”

ESUCP has served more than 4,000 individuals across their 10 behavioral health and six IDD service lines in Wake, Durham and Orange counties in the past year. And ESUCP President and Chief Executive Officer Luanne Welch said their focus on diversity, equity and inclusion is one of the things that makes them stronger as an organization and care provider.

“The people we serve want to see themselves represented in the organization that’s helping them. You can’t just walk in and not understand someone else’s culture and really be as effective,” she said. “I think we make better decisions. Diverse teams make better decisions.

Easterseals UCP and PORT Health are trustworthy, compassionate partners providing exceptional disability, behavioral health and addiction treatment services to help our neighbors live their best lives. Purpose, dedication and empathy drive our in-person and telehealth service delivery. Our diverse and inclusive 2,600 member team provides more than 10.2 million hours of meaningful support to 40,200 kids, adults and families in 11,000 home, facility and community locations across North Carolina and Virginia. Learn more at