Missouri mental health staff provides grief counseling, receives recognition

Missouri mental health staff provides grief counseling, receives recognition

(L-R) Institutional Chief of Mental Health Services John Pruett, Warden Angela Mesmer, Katherine Spires, Dr. James Belman and Mental Health Director for Missouri’s East Region Kimberly Foster

Katherine Spires and Dr. James Belman of Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (WERDCC) in Vandalia, Missouri, have each received a VPO Coin for the extra time and effort they spent helping patients cope with grief over the loss of a friend; a former offender.

In early August, the individual successfully completed the substance abuse program at WERDCC and was released from custody. Less than 48 hours later, she was reported to have fatally overdosed. WERDCC staff reported that she was very well liked and typically assisted her peers whenever able. News of her death came as a shock, disturbing many offenders still going through the substance abuse program, as well as treatment staff.

Corizon Health mental health staff were asked to assist offenders with processing their grief over the loss of their former peer. Ms. Spires is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) at the facility, and Dr. Belman, a psychologist. Both cleared their schedules to go to the substance abuse treatment housing unit, where they spoke with offenders who were affected by the tragic news in a group setting and in some individual sessions as well. The duo also made themselves available to any staff members who needed help processing their feelings about the death.

Ms. Spires and Dr. Belman both received recognition of appreciation by Warden Angela Mesmer and her administration, as well as staff within the treatment housing unit, for the time and effort they spent with everyone during this unfortunate time of loss. They were presented with VPO Coins by Mental Health Director for the Missouri Eastern Region Kimberly Foster.