201702-03-04 - Columbia VA Health Care System
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Columbia VA Health Care System



February 15, 2017

Passion, love of work and family obvious in Dorn VAMC social worker

by Jennifer Scales / Dorn VAMC Public Affairs

Love, love, love, love, love.

The word might be synonymous with the month of February, but for Outpatient Mental Health Social Worker Lakisha Richie, who works at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center, it takes on a special meaning in her position and home life.

For the New York City native, love originates from her family. Her college sweetheart husband, Cedric, have a son, Cedric II, who is a special needs child with a rare genetic disorder. The disorder is so rare that he is the only African-American child in the United States with the condition.

“He is the love of my life,” Richie said. With the special care required for her son, Richie’s parents have stepped in to rally for their grandson by packing up their own belongings from New York and moved to Columbia to help the family in his care, even though they themselves have debilitating illnesses. Her father, Delane McDonald has a cancer diagnosis, while her mother, Blanche, disabled and elderly, still manages to come over every day to sit with her grandson’s nurse to help out in any way that she can. “They are just great parents and a great support for me. I wouldn’t be able to do some of the things I do without them,” she added.

Richie specializes in the psychotherapy aspect of social work. This can include a multitude of coping problems which involve post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, grief, and loss, to name a few.

“Before the Veterans come to me, they are normally seen in the primary care clinic, under the direction of a PACT (Patient Aligned Care Team). Then they get assigned to one of us [social workers] based upon their problem,” Richie said.

Richie has nothing but words of praise for the way the team comes together to help Veterans. “We all have a different specialization that we focus on, however should anyone of the social workers come upon a situation or person whose characteristics fall into the special field of someone else among us, we easily help each other out to make sure the Veteran is helped,” Richie said.

Since coming on board at the Dorn VAMC in 2011, Richie has been continually worked on ways of improving care for Veterans. She and a former social worker are credited with one of Dorn’s successful programs known as BAAM (Behavioral Activation and Mindfulness). She is widely versed in the program of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for depression, which is an EBT (Evidence-Based Psychotherapy) specialization of hers.

According to Richie, the returns come in when she sees the progress in Veterans. “This job becomes reward filled when I see Veterans begin to improve. They may have initially come in looking down-trodden, hats pulled down over their eyes, no-eye contact made and then I begin to see the small, subtle changes that begin to blossom in them. Their lack of trust begins to disappear and they begin to live a value-filled life.”

Right now, Richie has more than 50 Veterans who she has in her rotation. And this work is not just one in which she does her daily duties and goes home. Richie finds herself, along with her peers, constantly staying abreast of the latest findings, instructions and diagnosis in the career field. So much so, that her work frequently incurs after hour’s sessions just so that the utmost care is given to her clients.

“We take books home to stay abreast in our field,” Richie said. “We all can’t go TDY or to conferences, so whenever a person does travel away to learn something new, it is brought back to share with others here. This way we talk about what was learned and decide if we want to incorporate that knowledge into some platform here. We do a lot of in-services to teach each other evidence-based protocols.”

Richie’s education includes that of being an alumnus of Cathedral High School in New York City; Benedict College in Columbia where she received her degree in English and education; and the University of South Carolina, with a master’s degree in social work. She is a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

After college, Richie put her skills to use back home working in discharge planning at the New York City Presbyterian Medical Center and then as a behavioral health specialist working with children at the Child Center of New York in Jamaica-Queens, New York.

“However, my college sweetheart, Cedric, came to get me and brought me back to Columbia,” Richie said. Once back in Columbia, Richie got busy working as a clinical case manager with PALSS (Palmetto Aids Life Support Services); LRADAC, a non-profit agency caring for the needs of the citizens of Lexington and Richland counties; and HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons with Aids).

When not at work, Richie places her roots into being a family-oriented soul. She and husband Cedric, who is school administrator at Heyward Career Center in Columbia, spend a lot of time with their son. During her personal time, Richie enjoys reading, writing, local travels and recreational painting.

“We all have different levels of training,” Richie said when referring to her peers. “Our goal is to meet the needs of the Veteran in the long run.”

Richie added, “I love to get in the trenches, I love my peers, I love my work. I feel like this is a passion that God has given me to lead a life of service. My work is therapeutic for me also.”

Her ultimate goal? “To continue to sharpen my clinical skills, retire from the VA and open up a private practice,” Richie said.


(MEDIA NOTE: Photos are available upon request.)