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Why Pro-Bono?

Having “access” to something doesn’t always mean direct or immediate access.

Let’s look at it this way – you are working toward completion on a project for work, and it just so happens to be a project which your future employment hinges upon. You’ve paid your Verizon bill, and you may even be “connected to the network”, but you can’t open a new webpage! Though your computer has “access” to the internet, you may not be able to use it immediately. It might require something simple like the flip of a switch on your router, or it could be something you’ll have to call tech support for. Either way, something that you should be able to use and that you have access to, yet remains out of reach.

So much for your future with that company.

The world of mental health care and services is a diverse one. It’s a world where the aforementioned scenario plays out all too often. Unfortunately many of the individuals in these situations aren’t fighting to keep their jobs – they are fighting to keep their sanity, their freedom, and their lives. I’ve heard it said many times, and even thought myself, “Why is that person still in the position that they are in? Why aren’t they taking advantage of what is there to help them? Don’t they realize that there are services that are designed to help get them where they want to be or give them the assistance that they need?” It seems to be within our nature to judge based upon our understanding of a person or situation many times without knowing the ins and outs of what is happening.

Streams of people pass our Hull St. offices each day, but several weeks ago, a gentleman approached our lobby to enter the building whom we had never seen before. When we let him in to ask how we might assist him, we quickly discovered that he had been released from Richmond City Jail several days prior. Feeling “suicidal and homicidal”, he immediately sought help. Ordinarily, he would have been able to access the services he is used to/needs, but his incarceration has thrown a wrench in that process. While he qualifies for Medicaid coverage, any period of incarceration requires resubmission of all necessary forms and paperwork for benefits. It is not uncommon for that process to take anywhere from 60-90 days. These benefits are not just limited to the counseling or group therapy sessions – we are also talking about medications as well.

For these individuals, not having direct or immediate access to what they need is a problem. We accepted this gentleman immediately on a pro-bono basis, with other organizations locally and nationwide doing the same, but this problem is symptomatic of a much larger issue – availability of care. While we are happy that he was able to find us and we could provide what he was looking for, what if he (and others in his position) never found an agency that would take them in immediately? Who knows what may become of these people, or whether they may do something to harm themselves, or even someone else.

Next time you go to flip the switch on your router or call tech support, hopefully you’ll recall reading this article.