Editor's Office Interview

One Year Down: Clarendon Behavioral Health CEO talks change

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Natalie Gray took over as CEO of Clarendon Behavioral Health a little over a year ago. A short time into her position, The Manning Times interviewed her about her position. Now, a year later, we presented her with another interview to talk about some of the major changes she has been making

Editor, Jake McElveen: So, you’ve been at it for a year now.

Natalie Gray, M.Ed: Yes, I have!

Do you think it’s been a good year?

I think it has been a great year. In the last year I have gotten acclimated, and a lot of the staff have been here a long time, so it is really nice to go into a facility with a staff that has longevity and has seen changes over the years and can give priceless feed back about what has and hasn’t worked. We have gone through a lot this year. 

What are a few of those things?

One of things that happened with us that has produced outstanding results is the CARF (The International Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) survey. They are the regulatory commission that comes into our agency every three years to look at every aspect of the agency. This agency has been CARF accredited for many, many years.  In fact, Ann Kirven was a CARF surveyor herself, so not only would she be involved with this agency, she would also go out and survey others. CARF International is the agency that most of the agencies have to get accreditation through to be able to provide Medicaid treatment and many of your insurance carriers will not handle the agency unless you are CARF Accredited.  

This year was the time for the three year renewal for our agency. With the onset of the pandemic CARF changed the way they do accreditations so that they no longer came in to the office. Everything was done virtually, so for our agency this added a little more complication in that most of our manuals and everything we did were primarily on paper. We went through many of our manuals and updated and made sure that they had the current years changes and the CARF approval. When they come into the agency they look at your policy and procedures, all of your financials, your clients, your employee, your orientation, your training, your health and safety. There are so many aspects and over 2,000 CARF Standards that we must meet. 

It is a huge deal. Our deputy director has been here over two years so he is not from Behavioral Health and had never done a CARF survey. This was my first year in and it was also the first year for our clinical director so you have three of the four leadership positions that are new to the agency and one of them had never been through a CARF survey. I am very proud to say that our agency did very well.  It was a two day ordeal and we came away with one recommendation and an impartial recommendation, which is outstanding considering there were 2,000 requirements to meet. We felt elated. We can’t officially say we are CARF accredited until we get the official letter but we know it is coming. That was one big undertaking that we had.

We also had an impromptu DHEC survey, which they had not had in about three years.  They came in for a surprise visit and we scored a 100 on that. 

That is impressive

It’s the team that has done all of this. This team is outstanding, I am very, very happy and feel very fortunate to have such a great team. Everyone here cares about the jobs they are doing, they care about our community and just want to see things continue to progress as they have and improve. We are doing  our Mat services? With Colonial Health as well as working with Brunson’s Pharmacy in order to serve the part of the population that deal with opioid use disorder and stimulant use disorder. 

We have some new board members and will be doing a board training in September. When we do a board training we are going to have an open house and invite the community members in to see what our agency is like, meet the board members and meet some of our staff. Along with our new logo this will give the community a chance to have a fresh new look at what we do. 

Many people that are moving into the community do not know about us although we have been here for 40 years. We just want to make sure people know that we are here and we are available to do what we can do to help our community heal from substance abuse disorders. 

A year ago you were entering into this brand new position at a very weird time for everyone. Do you feel like that was in any way beneficial?

I think in some ways it gave an opportunity for change. But not a change that would say the old ways were bad, but an opportunity for change in how we reach out to people. The world has changed in the last two years for all of us and with Behavioral Health we work with a lot of hurting clients and isolation is not good for that.  It is not good for the clients with depression and anxiety, it is not good for those struggling to overcome addiction, so support systems were reduced for lots of people dealing with behavioral health issues. We got the opportunity for a fresh look. Telehealth was something new that came about, and it was something we had the opportunity to do because we couldn’t do face-to-face services.  That our enhanced the great resources we were already providing, it also helped to address the barrier that a lot of our clients have in regards to transportation. In a rural community there is not a lot of public transportation for our clients who don’t drive or have a means to get here. The Telahealth opened some new opportunities to serve. 

In the first interview we did last year, you had been in the position for about a month and I asked you if Manning had been welcoming and you said yes. You also said you couldn’t wait to experience it after the pandemic, which went on longer than anyone expected, but, have you had a chance to get out in the community and see what it has to offer?

I am starting to! One of the things that is being discussed is expanding our EAP services, and part of that means I will get to go out and meet some of the business owners and community members and let them know that we have services available to them for prevention. I have met with Laurence Manning and this month we will be doing some training with them on self-care for Faculty and administration where we will talk about how to take care of themselves in a way that helps to deal with the stress of teaching. I raised three kids and I definitely know how kids can be a lot and they have had a lot to deal with during the pandemic. We just want to let them know that we are here as a support system.

We are also going to do prevention training for them as well with our prevention specialist Caroline Grant. We want to get involved with them and the youth to talk more about prevention. I have reached out to the school district as well to ask how we can help and be involved in prevention.  Not only substance abuse disorders but to help the youth with anxiety and stress as well.

I have met with the Sheriff and participated in a blood drive that we had last week. I am starting to get out more. I still haven’t gotten to where I would like to be as far as getting involved in the agency but I am definitely working in that direction.

Are there any other big changes that have taken place recently?

About 12 weeks ago we got a grant from a program called strengthening  families. What that does is take the whole family dynamic into account, especially when someone has had a substance abuse disorder or maybe at risk. We did a Monday night group where were met with the parents and children, that was our first time doing it and we have since begun a second series that we opened up to more community members to strengthen the family bond. I have also been going to drug court and working with Judge Land to get clients that are in court and have substance abuse disorders and have had some criminal issues. Just being collaborative in the way we are helping treat our clients. 

Caroline goes to the jail to do some preventative work in the jail system . Those few things have been done since they have relaxed some of the covid restrictions.

We are starting an advertising campaign in the next few months to share our new logo and talk about prevention and medication disposal as well as other new services offered to those with opioid and stimulant disorders.

If you could go back, what would you tell yourself a year ago? Any tips or expectations that you would give yourself?

I don’t think that I would, everything that happened has happened organically here. I got to know the community and the staff. I was familiar with the system because I had worked in it before. I really don’t think I would do a whole lot different.

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