Health in brief: St. Gerard House expands services for autistic teens

IN THE KITCHEN: A Feed the Need staffer and participant take a break from preparing watermelon. The skills training program offered by Hendersonville’s St. Gerard House just received a three-year CARF accreditation. Photo courtesy of St. Gerard House

St. Gerard House program earns accreditation 

If a program that integrates art therapy, sustainable gardening and culinary skills training for teens and young adults on the autism spectrum seems like an initiative worth growing, the internationally recognized Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities agrees. The independent, nonprofit body has awarded the St. Gerard House in Hendersonville a three-year CARF accreditation to expand its Feed the Need Program. 

The nonprofit St. Gerard House has provided clinical therapy services for people with autism for a decade and is the only comprehensive applied behavior analysis center in Western North Carolina. In addition to the Feed the Need pre-vocational skills program, the organization offers The Grotto, a year-round educational and therapeutic program for children with autism, and Connect, a weekly after-school social group and summer camp for children and their families. For more information, visit or call 828-693-4223. 

The Free Clinics expands into Polk County office

The Free Clinics will soon welcome clients to its new Columbus office. The COVID-19 pandemic thwarted plans for a celebration when staff moved into the new space in April, and coronavirus safety restrictions meant that patients had to wait a bit longer to visit the new location. A socially distanced ribbon-cutting was originally planned for Thursday, Nov. 12, but has since been pushed back to January 2021. 

“We believe that this new TFC office will enable greater visibility of our services and ensure greater access to critical care for our Polk County neighbors in need,” says Executive Director Judith Long in a statement.

While there are no health care providers working on-site, clients without insurance and an annual income below 200% of the federal poverty level can receive case management, specialty referrals and prescription assistance. To learn more about services, call the Polk County office at 828-722-1200. Volunteers are also needed to help greet visitors and answer phones; for more information, contact Sarah Friedell at

Tranzmission hosts online remembrance vigil 

In a year marked by death, loss and grief, local nonprofit Tranzmission will honor the 21st International Transgender Day of Remembrance with a virtual vigil at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20. Staff and volunteers plan to read the names of those lost to transphobic violence over the past year; peer support and resources will be on hand. 

The annual event was first held in 1999 to memorialize the death of Massachusetts transgender woman Rita Hester and has since grown into an international event to “draw attention to anti-transgender violence and the disproportionate impact on transgender women of color,” event organizer Brynn Estelle said in a statement. 

So far, 2020 is the deadliest year on record for transgender and nonbinary people. In the United States, there have been over 30 confirmed homicides, including Monika Diamond, a 34-year-old Black transgender woman from Charlotte who was killed in March

To RSVP, visit the Facebook event page or email with the subject line “TDoR 2020 rsvp.” A Zoom link will be sent the day of the event. 

New and noteworthy

  • U.S. Navy veteran and Hendersonville resident Carrissa Lynn is launching a nonprofit to help women leaving the military transition back to civilian life. Her project, The Homestead NC, will consist of a 12-week program for female veterans; Lynn also plans to open a community center where veterans can safely gather and share their experiences. Fundraising will begin in December, according to a press release, and the community center is tentatively set to open in the spring.
  • Western Carolina Rescue Ministries’ Week of Thankfulness is back to spread some much-needed love this Thanksgiving. Themed events will take place 4:30-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, Nov. 23-27 for clients staying at the facility or accessing grab-and-go meals. Participants will receive a different giveaway each night, including blankets, foot-care kits and sweet treats. 
  • A PERSONAL CAUSE: Robin Boylan, team captain of BB’s Buddies, raised nearly $12,600 during the Asheville Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Boylan walks in memory of his wife, Barbara. Photo courtesy of the Alzheimer’s Association

    The Asheville Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Oct. 10 looked very different this year, but mass-gathering limits didn’t stop participants from raising more than $80,000 to support the Alzheimer’s Association. Instead of walking together, 248 participants on 70 teams walked in small groups on trails and in neighborhoods. 

  • Jewish Family Services of Western North Carolina announced in October that its mental health counseling program will be rebranded as Healing Solutions Counseling. With the tagline “hope and healing for all,” the name change seeks to emphasize that the organization offers mental health care for people of all faiths and backgrounds, not just those who identify as Jewish, explains Jessica Whitehill, executive director.
  • Four Seasons’ Compass Program will distribute Butterflies of Hope during the month of November to raise awareness of childhood grief. To request a butterfly to display in a home or business, contact

Faces and places

  • Nursing assistant Sherry Kasten is the 2020 recipient of MemoryCare’s Georgia Crump Certified Nursing Assistant Award. Kasten, who works at the N.C. State Veterans Home in Black Mountain, was selected for her “patience of steel, heart of gold, knowledge, dependability, work ethic and dedication to the WWII, Korean War and Vietnam veterans she serves,” according to a press release. 
  • IFB Solutions, a local nonprofit that provides employment and training services for people who are blind or visually impaired, has named Russ Stinehour chair of its Asheville advisory board. Stinehour, who is visually impaired, has served on the advisory board for nine years. 
  • Daniel Carey is the Henderson County Council on Aging’s new development director. He comes to Hendersonville from Savannah, Ga., where he worked with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Historic Savannah Foundation. 
  • N.C. Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green will headline the 2020 Our VOICE Survivor Art Show. Virtual opening night is Thursday, Nov. 12; register to attend at

Hospital happenings

  • A new partnership between the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority will help members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians receive Medicaid benefits. The EBCI Tribal Option, with a focus on primary and preventive care, will manage health care for roughly 4,000 people in Cherokee, Swain, Jackson, Graham and Haywood counties starting July 1. 
  • ‘CRUSHED IT’: Mission Health hospitals collected 129 of expired and unused opioid prescriptions during an October takeback event. Photo courtesy of Mission Health

    Mission Health hospitals collected 129 pounds of opioid medications during its second Crush the Crisis opioid takeback event on Oct. 24. The system’s flagship Asheville location collected 62 pounds of unused or expired prescription medication, while Transylvania Regional Hospital reported nearly 40 pounds in collections. 

  • AdventHealth Hendersonville, home of the region’s only behavioral health unit solely for women, has received $50,000 in grants to expand its services. Grant funding will cover 12 new inpatient rooms for women experiencing depression, grief, trauma and addiction. 
  • A collaboration between Mission Health and Sarah Cannon, HCA Healthcare’s cancer institute, will expand services for the region’s cancer patients. In addition to the $3.7 million renovation of Mission’s surgical oncology clinic, Mission Health staff will be able to access Sarah Cannon’s network of research and treatment options. 

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About Molly Horak
Molly Horak served as a reporter at Mountain Xpress. Follow me @molly_horak

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