Gift of Wellness
This Whole Life supports providers and those in need
As a trauma-trained therapist and wellness leader, BUFFY ANDREWS wants everyone to have access to mental health services. But not everyone who needs therapy can get it if they are uninsured or cannot afford multiple counseling sessions.
Andrews, owner of the Made Well Center for Wholeness in Wilmington, became overwhelmed giving pro bono services to clients in need.
“You’re building a relationship with people,” Andrews says. “You’re not just saying, ‘I’ll meet with you once for coffee,’ you’re saying, ‘I’ll meet you once a week for the next three months.’”
“Your heart is like, ‘Oh my goodness I really want to help you,’ but I also need to feed myself and pay my bills,” she adds.
To avoid provider burnout, Andrews founded This Whole Life Foundation, which uses donations to pay providers at a discount for helping clients without health insurance or who are underinsured or have other challenges.
More than 11% of North Carolinians were uninsured in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Clients can apply for scholarships to get wellness treatment. Those eligible can choose a provider in the foundation’s network. Participating providers bill the foundation instead of clients.
“They’re still donating a portion of their time by giving us a 25% discount on their service fees,” Andrews says. “It’s also allowing us to be able to make our dollars go further.”
Providers from about ten Wilmington-area mental health and wellness groups are in the foundation’s network, including the Made Well Center.
Founded in 2019, This Whole Life Foundation now has about seven routine donors and partners with a new business each month to donate part of their product sales for a period of time, Andrews says.
For 2021 so far, the foundation has raised about $10,500 and given scholarship counseling sessions to at least 35 people, Andrews says.
“We usually start people out with about seven scholarship sessions,” Andrews says. “That can usually get you through at least two months of counseling.”
Clients also may apply for fitness sessions, wellness retreats, or continuing education workshops, and Andrews hopes to add a chiropractor.
She also wants to someday help businesses and nonprofits hold wellness seminars on issues such as suicidality or stress reduction.
WILMA: Tell us about This Whole Life Foundation’s clients.
Andrews: “People who have lost their jobs, who are in those transitional periods where they need to make ends meet. This is an extra support for people – being able to give them that access of somebody who can be in their corner and advocate for them.”
WILMA: How are you helping clients with mental health and wellness?
Andrews: “We’ve worked with people who have pretty severe trauma histories. We’ve worked with people who have chronic depression. We do have people who are coming out of domestic violence situations, and this is something that really helped them get on their feet. We’ve had clients who may be a newly divorced household, where now a mom is a single mom of three kids and wants her kids to get therapy.”
WILMA: What other services can network providers offer?
Andrews: “I’m a firm believer in holistic health and wellness, so even when I have clients come in for mental health counseling I’m talking to them about their gut health – ‘Hey did you know that your gut health impacts your mental health? Did you know that those little things about budgeting and saving money could be a really big source of stress for you that’s causing you to then react poorly in other environments?’ So we are working on the whole person.”
WILMA: Why is it so important to fill this need?
Andrews: “I’m one of many providers in town who have people that reach out to them and say, ‘Hey I’d really love to start counseling, but I can’t afford it.’ We don’t want to dismiss them – we want people to be able to have at least an opportunity.”
Those seeking help or wanting to donate can learn more at thiswholelife.org.
To view more of photographer Michael Cline Spencer’s work, go to michaelclinephoto.com.
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