Online Originals: Kinston program held up as a national example

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KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – A program in Kinston is getting national attention for its work to keep people out of jail while also serving as an example for other rural communities to follow.  

In most rural communities, people are sent to jail for drug charges. When they get out, they use it again. But Kinston Community Behavioral Health wants to change that. 

“We take pride in trying to know our patients, know their social determinates of health,” said Behavioral Health Director for Kinston Community Behavioral Health Dr. Brandy Harrell. “Meaning things that they lack, as far as transportation, housing, food insecurities and things of that nature.” 

They say by treating the whole person, the program gets to the root of the problems and prevents it before it can continue. 

“We have access to the whole person, holistic care, we have medical, we have dental, we have OBGYN and pediatrics,” said Harrell. 

Harrell was recently selected to serve with the National Rural Justice Collaborative

“She represents behavioral health on the advisory council, so it’s important for judges and people who work in the justice system, their closest partners outside of the justice system often are those providers,” said Executive Director of Rulo Strategies Tara Kunkel. 

Kunkel explained how it feels to know she can take her experience helping the community in Kinston to a national level. 

“This is a great feeling to be able to put into practice everything that I have learned, everything that I have implemented within our behavioral health care system here at Kinston Community Behavioral Health,” said Harrell. 

National Rural Justice Collaborative says they admire Dr. Harrell’s willingness to offer her expertise and her background on any national initiative. 

“She’s always the first one to be texting us to say ‘is there anything more that I can do?’,” said Kunkel. 

Harrell adds what this experience means overall to her.

“I am a native of West Greenville, where crime and substance use has been an identifier for the community, I am inspired and motivated to create change on a national level to implement better outcomes for families and rural communities,” Harrell said.

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