University of Montevallo opens Grainger Counseling and Wellness Clinic to offer free mental health services

Published 6:05 am Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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MONTEVALLO – The new and free-to-the-public Grainger Community Counseling and Wellness Clinic is now open following a grand opening Feb. 17 at Sims House on the University of Montevallo campus.

At no cost to its clients, the clinic provides:

-General therapy

-Group therapy

-Play therapy for children

-Telemental health virtual counseling

The clinic is open to anyone who makes an appointment during its hours of Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Community members can find additional information and schedule an appointment online at Appointments can also be scheduled by phone at 205-665-6377. The clinic’s address is 1045 Middle St., Montevallo, AL 35115.

The clinic was made possible through a partnership between the clinic’s namesakes Michael and Donna Grainger, who donated to fund the clinic, the University of Montevallo, the city of Montevallo and Shelby County, which is known as the Montevallo Development Cooperative District (MDCD). The clinic will provide free mental health care to Montevallo residents and other local communities.

Michael Grainger, a 1973 graduate of the University, said he’s hopeful the clinic can make a difference in the lives of those in the community who have lost a parent, spouse or child, have lost a job or are a veteran acclimating to daily life.

“The need for mental health professionals by 2025 is projected to be a million,” Michael Grainger said. “Based on the current population and demographics, we’re going to be 250,000 short. But there’s really only one number that is important in mental health and dealing with mental health, and that’s the number one, because it’s a personal journey you’re on,” said Mike Grainger. “It’s a personal, intense journey for the person with the illness and the person doing the counseling.”

A dedication ceremony was held for the clinic in May 2022 where UM President Dr. John W. Stewart III, Clinic Director Dr. Latofia Parker, Michael and Donna Grainger and others broke ground. Now the clinic is ready for service to help meet the needs of the 207,000 adults in Alabama who do not receive mental health care because of cost, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“If people are mentally well it improves their quality of life, particularly work life,” said Parker, who is also an associate professor of counseling at UM. “From a societal point of view, we want people to have healthy families and go to work. We know that mental health is a big challenge in our society so providing free services will help meet a need that will enhance our community, county and state.”

Stewart said he is proud the institution can assist in meeting the needs of Montevallo and surrounding communities.

“There’s going to be a lot of good things done within these walls,” Stewart said.

Chad Scroggins, county manager of Shelby County, said the clinic is a valuable partnership between the county, the city of Montevallo and the University through the MDCD.

“Shelby County is appreciative of the efforts of several partners to develop the Grainger Community Counseling and Wellness Clinic providing mental health assistance to residents in the area,” said Scroggins. “The University of Montevallo and the city of Montevallo have taken the initiative to develop an opportunity to fill a gap in community mental health services while also providing training and workforce development to try to meet the growing demand for mental health professionals in our area, state and country. Shelby County supports and applauds the efforts of our partners to meet both community and workforce development needs.”

Since the clinic is also a training facility for graduate students specializing in clinical mental health, school counseling and couples and family counseling, the 30- to 45-minute counseling sessions will be conducted by eight to 10 students in UM’s graduate counseling program who are in the final clinical phase of their education.

Parker said she expects many of their clients will seek one-on-one treatment for anxiety and depression, which is on the rise in Alabama and nationwide, and  the clinic has some rather unique treatment options.

“We have four therapy rooms – one is dedicated to play therapy, and one is dedicated to group therapy,” she said. “The other two are for general therapy sessions. There are not too many places around offering play therapy.”

“Play therapy is a modality of counseling primarily used for children to help them process their feelings and emotions in a safe way using something that comes naturally for them. You use toys and other tangible things for them to help talk about how they’re feeling. We use play because play is the language of kids.”

Another unique feature of the clinic is its dedicated space for group counseling. There will be an ongoing group for grief and loss where people who’ve lost their spouse, children and/or parents can get the comfort and help they need.

Telemental health counseling will be offered through a virtual video platform.

“Telemental health counseling is for people who can’t make it into the center or don’t live in the Montevallo area, have a lack of transportation or have a disability,” Parker said. “This is for people who can’t get counseling in a more traditional setting.”

Childcare during counseling sessions is also available for those who need it if scheduled ahead of time.

“My hopes for the clinic are that it’s a place of healing for people who are dealing with mental health challenges,” Parker said. “That people come, feel supported and receive quality services that will improve the quality of their lives. Also, that our graduate students obtain excellent clinical experience that will prepare them for their careers in counseling.”

Parker said the professional development opportunities afforded to graduate students at the University with the opening of the clinic continue to add to the prestige of a degree from UM.

“A master’s degree in counseling at the University of Montevallo holds prominence,” Parker said.