The mission of Greenwoods Counseling & Referrals is to ensure swift, affordable access to quality mental healthcare, regardless of ability to pay, for individuals and families living and working in Litchfield County.
Greenwoods Counseling Referrals was founded in 1992 by the Rev. W. David Dobbins Jr., a Litchfield County Episcopal minister and counselor. Dobbins, in addition to being an Episcopal Priest, had graduated from the Blanton-Peale Graduate Institute after four years of training in Pastoral Psychotherapy. Having returned to his childhood home, Litchfield, in 1991, he established a pastoral counseling practice hosted by St. Michael’s Church.
After working with clients for about a year, Dobbins had established a network of colleagues who responded to his clients who needed a breadth of support. His clients, many of whom lacked insurance and were under-employed, needed not only counseling but medical, legal, and family support services. Finding that many professionals were willing to offer such services at a reduced fee, or pro-bono, Dobbins, in consultation with Lou Donne (a strategic marketing research executive working in Litchfield) decided to convene a series of round-tables of these and other area professionals to discuss creating an organization prepared to respond to clients with multi-faceted needs. Area professionals who joined Dobbins and Donne at the round-table included: Psychologists Robert Berson and Joseph Struckus; Marriage and Family Therapists Ron Cebik, Peggy Sudol and Marlene Smith; Social Worker and Episcopal Deacon Bruce Mason; Attorney Charles W. Roraback; and Physician Charles Staub.
In consultation with these professionals, and with their active participation, Dobbins built a carefully screened network of therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists and other professionals willing to help clients regardless of ability to pay. Area professionals reduced their fees to support Greenwoods referred clients, with Greenwoods providing an assessment that would match clients with professionals best positioned to respond to their needs. A founding Board of Directors was formed, including Dobbins, the Rev. Deacon Bruce Mason of Litchfield, the Rev. Gretchen Janssen of NJ, and the Rev. Roger White of Kent: the organization was named Greenwoods in honor of an historic name for Litchfield County. Settling into space donated by St. Michaels’ Church, and with support from the Episcopal Diocese of CT, it was important, as news of the organization spread, to assure that every referred client could afford to pay a minimum fee. To that end Greenwoods established a fee subsidy fund that allowed clients with insufficient resources to pay as little as $5 towards a minimum $30 fee.
To make this possible Dobbins and the Board joined forces with Jane Reid Schick—a Litchfield native who had recently returned to her home town—who revived her company JRS Productions and its Milton Concert Series as a fund-raiser. With the generous participation of individuals and businesses who underwrote the costs, and with the donation of space by Trinity Church of Milton, this successful event provided the initial financial support needed to allow Greenwoods to establish its fee subsidy services. Schick went on to provide volunteer administrative support for Greenwoods, and in that capacity wrote successful grant applications, launched an annual appeal, and expanded the annual fund-raising events to include The Litchfield County Antiques Show.
Key to the success of the organization were members of the Board of Directors who embraced the vision of Greenwoods and worked creatively and sacrificially to assure its future. Among those who worked most closely with Dobbins over these formative years were Jane Havemeyer, Michael Jackson, Edwina Millington, Anne Potter, Faye Preston, Patsy Stroble, Kate Vick, and Roger White. Their efforts, individually and collectively, allowed Greenwoods to survive—and to thrive—by inspiring of an expanding network of people dedicated to making its services available throughout Litchfield County.
Dobbins and Schick married in 1994, by which time Greenwoods had established an expanded Board of Directors and called to itself expert administrative staffing (including Barbara Pappalardo and Vicki Kinsella) who assured that every client was welcomed and offered an appointment–usually within 24 hours. After 10 years at Greenwoods Dobbins decided to bring his counseling skills to support parishes in conflict, and he became accredited as an Intentional Interim Minister. In 2001 he became Founder and Trustee Emeritus of Greenwoods, and he and Jane began a journey of serving a series of parishes in New England before his retirement in 2018. During that period Greenwoods expanded and developed its services with the support of a dedicated and active Board, and with skilled Executive Directors that included Psychologists Edith Heath and Molly Hinchman, and Licensed Clinical Social Workers Donna Campbell and, most recently, John Simoncelli.
Public clinics are often overcrowded, and private counselors are overbooked, creating long waiting times for therapy. No one gets turned away or deferred at Greenwoods. After a swift mental health assessment, a client is matched with a ‘best-fit’ counselor from within a network of 130 providers and its in-house clinical staff. In 2018 Greenwoods connected 615 patients with mental health care representing a 62% increase over the previous year. In 2019 Greenwoods scheduled 670 mental health assessments, 5% more than the previous year, and 733 people were connected to highly-skilled professionals; over $25,000 in financial aid was given in support of 63 referred clients. Additionally, Greenwoods supports the region’s most vulnerable populations through its substance use disorder recovery program and school based mental health program in Litchfield, WAMOGO and Oliver Wolcott Schools.
Greenwoods is a recognized leader in community mental health education and wellness efforts across northwest Connecticut. Due to the Opioid epidemic in Litchfield County, Greenwoods now provides leadership for the Litchfield County Opioid Task Force, instituted a Medication Assisted Therapy program for people in recovery, and provides a community outreach and recovery navigator. To better respond to growing demands for mental health services and a need to shorten time between initial interview and scheduled counseling sessions, Greenwoods increased its in-house clinical staff. In 2020, the Board of Trustees changed the organization’s name to Greenwoods Counseling & Referrals to reflect these expanded counseling services.
Over the past 29 years, Greenwoods has grown its network and expanded its services to become a trusted and unique resource in mental healthcare for Litchfield County communities. People challenged by depression, anxiety, trauma and addiction receive excellent care through Greenwoods. It remains a small grass-roots agency dedicated to retaining a personal, intimate approach to its services and programs. Its offices are located in St. Michael’s Church at 25 South Street in Litchfield, Connecticut.
Why It Matters
Greenwoods began as a small grass-roots agency, and we will always retain our personal, intimate approach to our services and programs. Providing access to excellent care is central to our mission, a service that is badly needed. Lack of access to quality behavioral health and social services is a well-established and appalling fact.
People face a variety of obstacles that reduce their access to quality behavioral healthcare. Only half of those who need help actually get it. A January 2013 study by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration concluded that many people (50%) don’t get help because they can’t afford it or their insurance won’t cover it; they don’t think they need it (39%); or they are afraid that friends, family members, neighbors and employers will have a negative attitude about them if they seek treatment (35%). Poor access also may stem from the helplessness family members and friends feel because they simply don’t know how or where to get help for a troubled loved one. Finding appropriate care is even more problematic in a rural area like Litchfield County, where mental health services are often spread out geographically and hard to access. Greenwoods maintains a robust network of mental health professionals and resources in the community. Having this network of professionals and resources allows us to quickly connect people in need with the services that can help. This type of service is truly unique. There is nothing else like Greenwoods in Connecticut, and possibly the country.