BHSPC recognizes longtime employees

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

PICKENS — Several employees of Behavioral Health Services of Pickens County were recently recognized for their years of service to the agency.

Executive director Angie Farmer, director of medication assisted treatment services Angela Nicholson, director of operations Susanna Deming and clinical supervisor Ben Barth were recognized at the agency’s Christmas dinner and lauded again at the agency’s Jan. 11 board meeting.

In an age when people working for decades in one place has become rare, Farmer hopes longtime service says that BHSPC “is a good place to work.”

“And that we value the people who work here and we take good care of them,” she said. “I think we have a unique environment here where we support one another and we encourage one another. We try to take care of each other.”

Nicholson was recognized for 20 years with the agency, as she began working there in April 2002 after working with the Department of Social Services.

“I worked in treatment and investigations with child protective services at the Pickens DSS,” she said. “During this time I was heartbroken by the struggles that families were going through.”

Her role there was enforcing S.C. laws related to child abuse and neglect, removing children from their families and encouraging parents to go to treatment.

“This was frustrating, because I was more of an enforcer instead of a helper,” Nicholson said.

She built positive relationships with BHSPC staff when referring families to the agency.

A job opening for an intensive family counselor at BHSPC was an opportunity for her “to support positive changes with those very families that I had worked with at DSS,” Nicholson said.

“I truly enjoyed helping support parents in positive family changes that would keep their children in the home instead of being the person that may have to remove those children,” she said.

Nicholson loves working with the patients at BHSPC.

“Working in the medical program, I am able to watch someone come in that has lost everything due to drug use make changes in their life to where months and even years later, they have hope in the future,” she said. “I get to watch people be reunited with their children, get jobs, gain their health back and start over. This is what keeps me coming to work every day.”

Deming has been with Behavioral Health Services of Pickens County for 15 years.

She wanted to work at BHSPC due to a desire to be close to home and work in local schools.

“As time went on, I have really enjoyed the support, teamwork and commitment to client care and staff development,” Deming said. “I love how all the staff are committed to providing quality care and really go out of their way to help our clients. I love learning from other staff. I love knowing that the work we do, no matter how cumbersome at times, gives an opportunity for people that oftentimes have nowhere else to turn an opportunity to come in and feel supported and encouraged to find recovery.”

Barth has been with the agency for 10 years.

He’d vowed not to return to the area after having lived here most of his life, but then came BHSPC’s job offer.

“In the end, it was a gift,” he said. “I believe it was some kind of divine intervention for me to ‘return home.’”

Initially, he had no interest in working with children or in addiction.

“However, as often occurs, gifts find you, and not the other way around,” Barth said. “That is what it was to work with children and to work with those suffering with addiction. It was hard, but a gift. In many ways, it has resulted in my growth and healing.”

When asked why he likes working at BHSPC, Barth has a number of reasons.

“I feel that in a broken system, we care and we do well,” he said. “I feel we are ethical, and that is important to me. I feel we celebrate a sense of community, which is needed to keep doing what is hard.

“I feel we have a vision that guides our practice, which is what keeps me moving forward,” he continued. “I feel I am given trust and freedom to express what I believe in the work. I feel passion is celebrated, but views and personalities are challenged. All of these seemingly disparate things promote growth, which I value deeply. That is why I celebrate BHS.”

Farmer has worked for BHSPC for 25 years, but her connection to the agency began even earlier, as she was part of the Pickens County Youth Board in her teens.

“It looked like it was a lot of fun,” she said. “It looked like an opportunity for us to make a difference in our school.”

Her time on the youth board sparked a desire to work in behavioral health.

“I always wanted to help people somehow,” Farmer said.

She says she enjoys everything about her job “except paperwork.”

“I like seeing the difference that we can make in somebody’s life,” Farmer said. “I like seeing people heal and get better and feel better about themselves and make the changes they need to make in their lives.”

“I love our staff,” she continued. “I think we have the best staff in the entire world. I love our relationships with our community. I just like the work. It’s good work. I like working with people that most of the world doesn’t really value like they should. Most of the clients that come in here that have substance abuse issues, a lot of people have given up on them, and I don’t think we should give up on anybody. I think everybody has value.”

The agency’s work is hard, Farmer said.

“But you can see the difference you can make in somebody’s life,” she said. “That in itself is rewarding, and having a group of people that all want that — they want to see people get better and do better — I think that’s what keeps people here.”