The grand scheme wasn’t always her aim. She just wanted to lend a hand.
But as soon as Gayle Spears, an academic professional in the psychology department, answered the ad and got involved with Hope Haven, pieces of a larger puzzle began to snap into place.
Now Hope Haven, a resource center for adults with developmental disabilities, has formed a mutually beneficial relationship with the university.
“Working with developmentally disabled people has always been an interest of mine,” Spears said. “After I began working with (Hope Haven), I started reviewing charts and noticed that some of the psychological evaluations were out of date and I thought, ‘Hey I have a student who could do that.’ ”
The center now sends clients to campus for counseling sessions and master’s students visit the center weekly to provide low-cost individual and group therapy.
“For the population we work with, there’s a real shortage of mental health care and counseling services. It simply doesn’t exist in Athens,” said Claudia Coppola, the social worker at Hope Haven. “Before Gayle and UGA got involved, our clients didn’t have counseling. It’s been an invaluable service for the individuals we work with.”
Through the program, graduate students have a rare ability to work with the developmentally disabled and the clients have a chance to see a therapist regularly.
“Years ago, we all began to realize that developmentally disabled adults have the same mental health issues that everybody else faces,” Spears said. “And having a supportive ear to hear their concerns is very helpful to them.”
In addition to helping with low-cost counseling, UGA supports Hope Haven and many other organizations through the annual Campaign for Charities, which runs through Dec. 19.