Prioritizing an underserved community’s health: How Carelon’s new care center in Fayetteville addresses the community’s whole-health needs

Overview: State of health in the Fayetteville region

Underserved communities throughout the United States increasingly need their whole wellness — which includes their physical, behavioral, and social health — recognized and treated more fully, with long-term, integrated solutions. 

Carelon’s new care center in Fayetteville, North Carolina facilitates the whole-health treatment process with non-medical counseling and employee assistance plan (EAP) services.

The center’s care team serves Cumberland County, which includes Fort Liberty — the world’s largest military base. We are here for the entire community, including Medicare and Medicaid recipients, with a staff experienced in supporting military personnel and their families. 

Fayetteville’s growing need for whole wellness services

The community’s need for whole-health services grew from three primary causes:

Lack of resources

The current nationwide shortage of behavioral healthcare providers affects large segments of the population. Over one third of Americans live in areas without behavioral health professionals.1

Long wait times

Many people struggle to access care, often due to long wait times to see a provider. In areas such as Fayetteville, residents report having to sometimes wait weeks for healthcare appointments. 

This is consistent with national trends — in 15 of the United States’ largest cities, it takes an average of 26 days to schedule a new patient physician appointment.2

Stigma associated with getting help

Many Americans experience stigma when they seek behavioral healthcare as part of their whole-health needs. Nearly one-third of Americans worry that others will judge them for receiving those services.3

How Carelon’s care center supports community health

The care center’s mission is to reduce stigma and address the community’s need for behavioral healthcare services, while also planning and implementing long-term solutions.

Angela Edmonds, Carelon’s Director of Behavioral Health Services, explains, “Our counselors act as navigators, helping visitors get the help they need virtually or in person. They can connect individuals to behavioral and physical health providers, some of whom may be on-site.”

The care center also serves the community’s needs beyond whole health. “We serve the area by having physical and behavioral health under one roof for a seamless whole-health experience. We also employ local doctors and center staff,” notes Theresa Austin, Carelon’s Senior Director of Marketing. 

What the care center does

The care center is focused on addressing acute issues such as stress, educational concerns, and family matters, and how these issues affect the residents’ overall whole-health needs. Edmonds says, “Providing non-medical counseling and EAP-type services give us a great opportunity to work with and support the Fayetteville community.”

The center is staffed by a multidisciplinary care team, and residents can book appointments via referral both virtually and on-site. By meeting people where they are, Carelon can better provide the help they need.

“We are a care delivery service. After a referral, an individual meets with a non-medical counselor to assess counseling needs and overall care needs,” details Derek Dickens, Carelon Associate General Manager.

Who the care center serves

Fayetteville is connected to the largest military base in the world, giving the care center an opportunity to serve an historically underserved segment of the population, along with their families. 

Serving the region’s Medicare and Medicaid residents is another priority. Dickens explains, “This is an opportunity to bring unified solutions to these vulnerable communities.”

Carelon care center goals

The care center’s mission is to provide whole-person care to historically underserved communities and ease stressors that have become normalized in those communities and continue to negatively affect residents’ health.

Reducing wait times

The center’s immediate goal is to reduce wait times for new provider appointments. “Right now,” says Austin, “wait times are longer than six weeks. Achieving shorter wait times is a key priority.”

Demonstrate Carelon’s commitment to the Fayetteville community

Edmonds emphasizes the importance of working together with the Fayetteville community, saying, “We are invested in our partnerships with the community, and we are here to collaborate on finding solutions and providing whole-health services.”

Getting the word out

Following its grand opening on April 5, 2023, Carelon launched several initiatives to get the word out about the care center:

Word of mouth

Word of mouth is one of the most powerful methods of introducing the community to the Carelon care center. “The most important marketing tactic is to get boots on the ground, canvassing the area and getting our name out into community,” explains Dickens.

Grassroots campaign

Edmonds concurs, “The idea is to get out into the community and meet people where they live.” The care center’s marketing team meets with people at churches, schools, and community centers to engage them in learning about the care center.

Media and event marketing

Billboard and radio campaigns have raised local awareness of the center. Co-branded events with strategic partners are designed to educate residents and give them opportunities to meet the center’s providers.

Future opportunities

Looking ahead, Dickens says, “North Carolina is home to several areas that could benefit from our new whole-health solution. We are looking at setting up cobranded facilities in areas that serve multiple markets. This will help us reach more people and their families, and over time we hope to bring this program to the rest of the country.”

Building long-term results

The Carelon care center provides a safe space designed to lessen the stigma of behavioral healthcare and improve the way care is delivered to underserved individuals.

Ultimately,” Edmonds says, “we want to create a space in which people feel comfortable seeking whole healthcare. We want to normalize the idea that it’s okay to ask for help — it’s why we’re here.”

1. USAFACTS: Over one third of Americans live in areas lacking mental health professionals (accessed June 2023):
2. Washington State Hospital Association: New survey: Physician appointment wait times getting longer (accessed June 2023):
3. National Council for Mental Wellbeing: Study Reveals Lack of Access as Root Cause for Mental Health Crisis in America (accessed June 2023):