Attorneys are problem solvers. People seek the counsel of attorneys to help them resolve issues they can’t solve on their own. Many times we don’t think about who’s there to help attorneys when they are faced with the issues of life. BarCARES is a program organized by the North Carolina Bar Association to help attorneys. Wayne Stephenson, Lawyers Mutual Claims Counsel, is not only a volunteer but knows first-hand the value of the program. BarCARES was there for Wayne and his family during his divorce. He’s able to give back through his service to the organization by serving and ensuring other attorneys get the help they need when life happens.
LM: Can you tell us what BarCARES does for those who are not familiar with the program?
WS: BarCARES is a program, initially organized by the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA), which provides professional, confidential assistance to attorneys and, in certain circumstances, to their families. While substance abuse and depression are more frequently addressed, parenting issues, stress, domestic violence, couples counseling, and other issues are also considered. Although the program covers the entire State, the attorney’s individual judicial district bar or other special bar organization needs to join the program. If a district or bar organization does join, BarCARES provides up to three annual free confidential counseling sessions for the attorney (and family member, depending on the program selected) in an effort to try to address the concern. In addition, NCBA has a special pilot project allowing BarCARES help to be given to all Bar members. More details are available at www.ncbar.org/members/barcares/ and www.barcares.org. The program is also being used by all but one of the law schools in North Carolina.
LM: What led you to become involved with BarCARES and how long have you served?
WS: Lawyers Mutual and Lawyers Insurance Agency have been longtime supporters of BarCARES, both financially and otherwise. We recognize that attorneys who are dealing with difficult issues outside the office risk making errors inside the office. Both LML and LIA have ex-officio members on the BarCares Board of Directors. About 2 years ago when the LML position opened up, I volunteered because I’ve personally benefited from the program. Many years ago, I went through a difficult divorce and turned to BarCARES for assistance. Not only did BarCARES help me deal with the stress of the divorce, more importantly, BarCARES provided a way for me to continue to have direct, unfiltered communication with my three children, especially during that period before a visitation order was in place. BarCARES also helped my children deal with the stress they were encountering as well. To this day, I’m grateful for their assistance.
LM: What services are provided by BarCARES?
WS: The professional services are provided through HRC Behavioral Health & Psychiatry, PA. If you visit their website at www.hrc-pa.com, you will see that the counselors they use are highly trained and experienced. I just noticed when I visited their website that the clinicians that helped my family are still with HRC over a decade later. You will also see that each clinician has their own areas of expertise such as marriage counseling, older teens, younger children, and depression, along with a wide range of other specialty areas. I learned through my use of BarCARES that HRC emphasizes providing services to many high stress professions.
LM: Who is eligible for BarCARES programs/services?
WS: Again, eligibility depends on each judicial bar’s specific plan. In Wake County, where I live, we have been strong supporters of BarCARES over the years. In my particular case, each of my children and I had three free annual sessions with the clinicians at HRC. Once those BarCARES sessions were over, the coverage under my health insurance policy began to respond to the additional sessions.
Because there are some judicial districts which do not participate in BarCares, the NCBA BarCARES Initiative offers a BarCARES based counseling program to any NCBA member who lives in an area where the judicial district bar does not participate in BarCARES, if the member has not used BarCares previously.
LM: What advice do you have for attorneys who are hesitant when it comes to using BarCARES services?
WS: How can you as an attorney effectively advise someone else with the most significant issues of their lives if you aren’t willing to recognize that you from time to time may need assistance with dealing with the stresses of life yourself? We are Type A personalities or we wouldn’t be in this profession. Still, we are far from perfect and need to accept help at those times when we need it. Confidentiality is a key component of the program. If you want to just discuss the specifics of the program and how it works in your area of the State, call HRC at 1-800-640-0735.
LM: How can other attorneys who are interested in being involved in the program do so?
WS: The BarCARES board would love to see this program cover the entire State regardless of the judicial district bar’s current participation. Go to www.ncbar.org/members/barcares/ and click on “BarCares Programs” to see if your judicial district participates in BarCares. If not, raise this issue at your next judicial district meeting and see what the reaction is. If there’s interest, contact me and if I can’t address your questions, I can find someone who can.