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Hospital launches faith-based volunteer program

With newly-established cooperation between Russellville Hospital and the faith-based community, Russellville patients will now have greater access to counseling and mentorship connections to care for their hearts and minds in addition to their physical health.

Russellville Hospital’s Diane Myrick, quality director and patient safety officer, took the lead on establishing connection with local pastors and church members to develop a base of people who will be on call to minister to hospital patients with mental health needs.

“For many years the Joint Commission has said to hospitals, you’ve got to do more to identify suicidal patients,” Myrick said. With this emphasis, she said, the hospital saw it as an opportunity to “restore pastor presence” among its patients.

Faith-based volunteer group Restore Hope is a collection of 15 ministers from throughout the community to whom Russellville Hospital’s case managers can refer hospital patients in a time of need. When routine screening indicates a patient has mental health needs, like depression for example, or suicidal ideations, that person receives mental healthcare and can be put in touch with someone with the faith-based volunteer program, if the patient desires.

Case manager Tabetha Pinkard said she and fellow case manager Bea Inmon often see people at rock bottom who are in dire need of someone to talk with. A person might not want to call a hotline at talk to a stranger, but “if we can give them someone to talk to, it sets up a relationship,” Pinkard said. “We were excited to have this for our community.”

“When these people come in, they are at the point of no hope,” Inmon added. Myrick said this kind of cooperation with the faith-based community has been on Inmon’s heart for years.

The hospital serves as a connecting point between patients and these faith volunteers. An orientation program prepares new volunteers to be available to patients, but many of the program volunteers already have a background that lends itself to this kind of work.

Clint Knowles, Hackleburg Community Church pastor, had only one question when Myrick contacted him about the program: What would Jesus do?

“He would be first in line to volunteer to help,” Knowles said. “We see this as a real crisis in our area … It’s a need, and we want to see our people helped.”

His wife Elizabeth was also immediately on board, finding it aligned with efforts in which she is already involved. “We’ve been doing addiction recovery ministry in our church since 2008. That’s my passion – counseling in those areas – and I find that addictive behaviors are often linked to depression and all different kinds of anxieties,” she said. “I want to help people see the other side – that you don’t have to live that way.”

Elizabeth said Hackleburg Community Church has been praying for some time to go in more of a service direction, and this will be a positive way for their congregation to bring “hope, healing and peace.” “So I was excited about it. We’re ready to partner with the community so we can help more people.”

Mark Daniel, North Russellville Baptist Church pastor, also didn’t hesitate. “How can we not do it?” he said. “This town is our Jerusalem … When you make yourself available, God opens doors. God is always at work if we just make ourselves available to get in on what He’s doing.”

Sandy Knowles, also from Hackleburg Community Church, “thought it would be a great way to try to make a difference.”

The program was set to launch this week, but Myrick said the door is always open for more volunteers from the faith-based community who want to reach out a hand to people in need. For more information, call 256-331-4237.