FMU, HopeHealth could bring behavioral health clinic downtown

By: Rebecca Cross, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. – Francis Marion University will embark on several new initiatives, including the possibility of partnering with HopeHealth to bring a behavioral health clinic downtown.

University and HopeHealth employees are discussing details that would allow both entities to staff the clinic. The project is still in its beginning phase, but FMU President Fred Carter said this project strikes him as precisely the type of work the university should be doing in the community.

“I think a lot of people that we would serve there would likely be people in the community who have no place else to go for mental health counseling and for behavioral health services,” Carter said. “We look to this being the type of facility that could provide short- and long-term counseling and support for those folks.”

 Ronald Murphy, an FMU professor of psychology, regularly volunteers with underserved people and often incorporates his master’s students in those service times. Murphy said he sees people who are falling through the cracks, and providing them consistent services is a gap in the Florence community.

“I’ve been doing community work for a while,” Murphy said. “There’s such a tremendous need in Florence for mental health for people who are underserved.”

The clinic could be housed in the old Post Office building downtown.

Students in the master’s in applied counseling program also would be able to get hands-on experience at the clinic. They would work alongside trained, licensed psychologists.

“That would give them a clinical laboratory to essentially hone their skills and work with faculty who are experienced in counseling,” Carter said.

The unveiling of this project and others took place Thursday at the FMU board of trustees planning retreat.

In five years, the university hopes to have at least five new programs in place. The programs will be a doctorate in nurse practice, health informatics, speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

Chris Johnson, director of the university’s McNair Center for Research and Service, said the university is spearheading new research initiatives. The McNair Center plans to develop applied collaborative research projects and cultural recovery projects, and it wants to create projects that blend research with service.

These projects would allow both faculty and students to pursue research opportunities.

For example, there already are project possibilities for students to work with faculty on collaborative research projects for local industries. Research projects such as this could link students with future internship or employment opportunities.

Board chairman Kenneth Jackson said university leadership has an ambitious agenda, but he believes the leaders can meet the challenge.

“I think we have a lot to be excited about and a lot to be proud of,” Jackson said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us to get this accomplished in the next couple of years.”

After the planning retreat, the board met for its quarterly meeting, but no action was taken during the meeting.

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