Evening light came through the wall of windows onto a green tiled waiting room floor, while a TV kiosk played healthy recipes executed by a perky Carol Brady-esque chef.
Not the bleak, institutional facade one anticipates when envisioning Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center.
This is due in great part to its Executive Director, Deborah Blalock.
Twenty-one years ago, the skilled hand-engraver shifted her confidently delicate focus from intricacies of precious metals to precious minds.
Those with an aesthetic flare often opt to create, or as Blalock advocates, “don’t wait for somebody to bring you flowers, plant your own garden.”
And seed and sow she did.
As one of the largest facilities in the state, CDMHC sees 200 -300 people daily. They now offer immediate access, meaning you can be seen at the center in less time than it takes to WedMD your pains.
Blalock emphasizes the role of their innovative therapies to be effective in addition to supportive. With a pleased smile, she alludes to the wings of the building that flank her, “the goal is to not come to the Mental Health Center every day for the rest of one’s life. With treatments now, people get better.”
In 2010, the program Highway to Hope hit the 100 miles of road, connecting McClellanville and Edisto. The RV is staffed with professionals able to provide assessments and therapy. Even still, 1 in 5 South Carolina residents are affected by mental illness. For each patient that makes it to CDMHC, there are far more still in need of treatment.
Deborah Blalock has spent her career growing, but her next goal is to weed out a stigma. The RV hits parades and markets with a clear message, “Normal is Overrated,” encouraging our community to address mental illness and the many families it affects.
After all, how lackluster to have a garden of identical flowers.
Words by: Meredith H. Siemens
Photographer: Adam Chandler