Mental health services expand for students in Powhatan despite pandemic

The Free Clinic of Powhatan provides free mental health services to low-income and uninsured residents of Powhatan County, in addition to medical, dental and prescription assistance.  Although the clinic has yet to see any COVID-19 patients at this time, their services are needed more than ever.

“With the COVID-19 outbreak, the rate of domestic violence, child abuse, substance and alcohol abuse, depression and anxiety is rapidly increasing and continues to do so with unemployment rising and with the closing of many small businesses that are dependent on the local population in small rural areas,” shared Connie Moslow, Executive Director and Founder of the Clinic. “Many young people are also having a difficult time adapting to this ‘new world,’ making access to mental health services critically important right now.”

For the last year and a half, the organization has worked with Powhatan High School to offer mental health services to students.  The program is highly regarded, as it is the only mental health program-partnership of its kind in the Richmond area.  Students needing counseling services can connect with a professional mental health counselor or a psychiatrist provided by the Clinic.  Guidance counselors, teachers, social workers, and other community programs all work together in a referral network to make sure the young people who need services can get them.

Pictured: Nurse Practitioner Funmilola Iaowoeye and Dr. Hermes Kontos. Almost all
doctors at The Free Clinic of Powhatan are volunteers.

When the schools were open, students could come to appointments on-site, which the students consider to be a “safe zone,” to receive services and have confidential conversations.  Right now, these services have transitioned solely to the telephone. An appointment by phone or Zoom can sometimes be a challenge though, especially in rural communities where access to broadband is restrictive and students might have more trouble finding private places to discuss what is going on in their lives.  However, Moslow says, “Our mental health counselor understands these issues and connects and communicates very well with the students.  They put trust in her to guide them through issues and difficult times where social isolation can exacerbate mental health issues.”   

Powhatan High School is the only public
high school in the county.

Before the pandemic, the organization had also planned to expand a similar program in the Powhatan Middle School, but school closures caused delays.  “We know that the younger we get the students into mental health programs, the better off they are. There is still a stigma around mental health care, but it makes such a difference in people’s lives.”

Funding from the Central Virginia COVID-19 Response Fund will help to bring these plans to fruition at the beginning of the school year, and a grant from the Jenkins Foundation will support general operating costs for the Clinic and its programs.


With 3,300 square feet, the newly renovated space will allow for
two examination rooms, two counseling rooms and two dental chairs. 

The Free Clinic of Powhatan also has plans to move to a new building with more room for expanding services and programs, increasing patients and staff, upgrading equipment and adding a dental facility.  “Things will get tough, especially in a small community like Powhatan.  It’s becoming very apparent that many families are struggling, and we want to be able to be there for them now and in the future,” Moslow said. “That’s why I am so grateful to see our community come together to help one another in so many ways.”