Adam Ridenhour, a CareNet counselor and Davie Medical Center’s Manager of Chaplaincy and Clinical Ministries, is writing about the power of a unique model of mental health care that can serve medical systems throughout North Carolina, especially smaller ones.
By Les Gura
You might say Adam Ridenhour has perfect timing.
He started his internship in Wake Forest Baptist’s Clinical Pastoral Education program in 2012, coinciding with the arrival of Rev. Gary Gunderson as vice president of the Division of FaithHealth.
Ridenhour’s dual training in pastoral ministry and counseling brought him to a unique, three – headed role as Davie Medical Center’s Manager of Chaplaincy and Clinical Ministries. There, Ridenhour sees patients and family members in a pastoral role as needed, has regular clients in his role for CareNet Counseling role, and also in a public engagement role that is part of the FaithHealth movement makes community connections designed to understand and help respond to public health needs.
In short, Ridenhour’s job is a synthesis of work done by the Division of FaithHealth in the manner conceived of by Gunderson in the “Memphis model,” a covenantal relationship among hundreds of congregations working to advance the health of the community that he brought to Wake Forest Baptist from his previous work that began at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis.
Ridenhour is now writing about the power of this unique model of mental health care —and a model he believes can serve medical systems throughout North Carolina, especially smaller ones—to both improve community health and reduce the cost of care. Ridenhour’s is writing about the model as he pursues a doctorate of ministry degree with the Divinity School at Duke University.
“Wake Forest is a model of inside-the-walls, outside-the-walls chaplaincy,” says Ridenhour, who as part of his doctoral work completed a paper this summer documenting Wake Forest’s early role as a pioneer in CPE and community counseling. “The model looks a lot like our Davie, Lexington and Wilkes community hospitals—where chaplains observe the traditional roles of chaplaincy in the hospital, but also: venture out into the community and are in partnership with local non-profits that help with food insecurity and a range of other community needs through networks of trust. Chaplains are now part of the community dialogue around needs assessment, and they seek to provide resources for questions regarding healthy communities.
“My thesis work is on resilience being the overarching model of communal and clinical spiritual care. The ways in which we are resilient in spiritual needs and behavioral aspects of health broaden into social and public health spheres in community.”
Ridenhour says his passion for his work was driven during his time doing CPE, when he recognized “barriers between inpatient psychiatry and community mental health providers. Many of our behavioral health patients had spiritual distress connected to many of their traumas, felt alone in the community and did not qualify for any of the resources available to them.
“This allowed me to see the breakdown between how we care for individuals with mental health concerns in the community, as well as the breakdown between inpatient mental health systems and community mental health,” Ridenhour says. “And the fact that upon discharge, the sharing of information and communication between clinicians in the community is often less than ideal. It’s a question of timing and resources, not neglect, but the need is so great and the resources are so few.”
Ridenhour says the ability of hospital chaplains to step into a broader role is bo th necessary and a natural outgrowth of work he documented in his paper of how Wake Forest Baptist’s own chaplaincy and pastoral care efforts have transformed ove r the years. He noted that the original School and Department of Pastoral Care is the oldest chaplaincy program in the South, and has driven a holistic approach to care for decades.
Many of the key figures in the program at Wake Forest Baptist, such as the original associate director, Richard K. Young, played important community roles in addition al to their duties to the school. Young, for example, led the effort to create the Forsyth County Meals on Wheels program in 1962; it is now the third-oldest such program in the U.S. Likewise, Wake Forest Baptist’s Department of Human Enrichment and Development joined the division now known as FaithHealth in 1973 to emphasize prevention of illness in the ministry of pastoral care. That is a key mission of the modern-day division. Coincidentally, the head of that department was M. Mahan Siler, father-in-law to Russell Siler Jones, who has directed CareNet’s Residency in Psychotherapy and Spirituality since that program began in 2008.
Ridenhour says the Division of FaithHealth rests heavily on the pioneers of innovation who have been a part of pastoral care, counseling and community engagement since the earliest days of Wake Forest Baptist. He hopes the model of pastoral care he is part of developing will further innovation in the field.
“I think it is perfect timing for this marriage to happen,” Ridenhour says. “Hospitals and hospital administrators are looking for ways to effect change in their communities. Population health is driving that, and health needs assessments are motivating the connections.
“Part of our work is educating the community and health care administrators about the important connections that chaplains have in their community already, and allow them to have a front-seat role in community health needs and population health efforts.”