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The Well Center in Pendleton offering free mental health counseling for those with disabilities

The coronavirus pandemic has made our lives much harder, with anxiety and depression affecting more people than ever. For individuals with disabilities and their families, COVID-19 has created significant barriers to quality of life, access to services and overall well-being.

That’s what makes the free counseling services offered by The Well Center in Pendleton so valuable, according to Sandy Hanebrink, Executive Director of Touch the Future, an Anderson-based nonprofit that provides accessibility training and assistive technology products and services to seniors and those with disabilities.

“Individuals with disabilities are at even greater risk to have a mental health crisis at a time like this,” Hanebrink says. “Limited access or no access to communication or transportation, interruption of services, fear of medical rationing and being left to die, and fear of being taken out of your home and put in a nursing home are some of the real worries people with disabilities have right now.”

To assist the disability community, Dr. Lynne Cory, PhD, a licensed mental health therapist at The Well Center is offering five free, 30 -minute counseling sessions to help with coping strategies. Weekly sessions will be conducted by telephone or videoconference, then continued in person once the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.

“People with disabilities are left out of the big picture for services under normal circumstances,” said Cory, a former recreational therapist. “Now is an especially important time for them to pay attention to distressing emotions and concerns such as anxiety, depression and fearfulness that are worsened by social isolation.”

Sandy Hanebrink, Executive Director, Touch the Future Inc.

COVID-19 has created additional barriers for those with disabilities, Hanebrink says. “Think about it. Many people are wearing masks now and someone who is deaf can’t read lips through a mask,” she explained.

Another example is the inaccessibility of telehealth and e-learning services because there is no captioning. And while South Carolina’s governor has done a good job, sign language interpreters are not available at White House briefings or at many local briefings, Hanebrink says.

Photo courtesy of City of Greenville SC. All Rights Reserved.

There also has been interruption of critical care like physical therapy, occupational therapy and counseling. For example,  those who require a personal care assistant can’t access services because assistants are not allowed into many healthcare facilities. Public transportation services also have been altered due to the coronavirus pandemic. Paratransit cutaways at Greenlink in Greenville County have capacity for up to two passengers who use wheelchairs and Greenlink has limited maximum capacity to no more than four passengers total on a cutaway vehicle at one time, according to Greenlink spokesperson Nicole McAden.

“When people can’t get care, they often end up in nursing homes which is one of the worst places to be during this pandemic,” Hanebrink said.

For Cory, 22 years as a recreational therapist gives her firsthand insight into the stress and anxiety that those with disabilities deal with daily. The additional stress caused by COVID-19 prompted her to offer the free mental health counseling sessions.

“Counseling can help individuals by exploring and processing emotions, as well as provide support to increase coping skills and strategies,” she said.

The Well Center sessions are available to individuals with disabilities, their family members and/or care givers who reside in South Carolina. For those living outside the state, Cory can help identify mental health resources in their communities. In addition, The Well Center is offering five no-cost sessions to healthcare workers (nurses, doctors and frontline staff) who may want mental health counseling.

Visit The Well Center website or call 864-383-1996. The center’s client coordinator will contact you within 24 hours. If you do not have access to the internet, The Well Center can provide the forms and services in a manner that is accessible.

For those wanting more information on affordable assistive technology and other tools to help senior citizens and those with disabilities live independently, visit the Touch the Future Inc. website, email admin@touchthefuture.us or call 864.221.4011.

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