From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Catholic Charities’ counseling program earns praise from within and without

by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register

(From the Dec. 6, 2001 edition of the Inland Register

Gene DiRe of Spokane has directed Catholic Charities’ counseling program for 14 years. The program is small, almost like a private practice, with three full-time and two part-time counselors. Yet it is one of the best-run programs in the Spokane area.

Let Rob McCann, Associate Director of Catholic Charities, explain: “The Spokane Regional Support Network is one of the primary funders (of the counseling program) and they have audited us annually for many years. It’s rare to get accolades from the state, but they tell us they like coming over to do our audits, they’re so clean.”

As director, DiRe gets to do the bulk of the paperwork, which McCann said can be “a nightmare. It’s rare for counseling programs, especially small ones, to keep up with it. For a small program, our record-keeping is among the best and Gene is responsible. He does a great job.”

One of the primary reasons for the increased paperwork is the concept of managed care. DiRe said the practice of managed care is “to make the most efficient use of available resources.”

About half the clients served by DiRe’s program are on Medicaid, which is federally funded through the state. There are stringent requirements about treatment and the results of treatment which must all be documented. “There are defined and clear expectations,” DiRe said.

Managed care also affects the clients who pay according to a sliding scale. Most people who use the sliding scale to pay for counseling services do not have Medicaid or insurance and few, if any, other resources. Again, DiRe said this is to make sure that program funds are “wisely used.”

Looked at another way, managed care can benefit clients. “Managed care guides the treatment,” DiRe said, “to help make our services more effective.”

To make sure they are doing that, DiRe and his staff meet every other week with psychiatrist Dr. John Moulton, to review every case. “That’s to assure that the services we provide to clients are the best and most appropriate, and most cost effective (for their needs).”

To meet DiRe is to realize that he considers his work much more than a job with a mountain of paperwork. It’s obvious that he sees his work as a ministry which flows out of his relationship with God, “particularly Christ’s message. My whole interest has been service to others.”

At first DiRe thought he might serve others as a priest and entered Bishop White Seminary in Spokane his second year of college. He stayed at Bishop White three years, earning a degree in philosophy from Gonzaga University.

After a year at St. Thomas Seminary in Seattle, DiRe came back to Spokane, taking a job in the juvenile court system. Finding that work to his liking, he returned to GU, earning a master’s degree in counseling and psychology. He worked in the court and justice system for several years, and in 1987 was hired by Catholic Charities to direct their counseling program. He has been there ever since.

DiRe said the needs of clients who come for counseling have not changed that much, although “we’re seeing more people struggling with addictions to alcohol and other drugs.” People seek counseling for a variety of reasons, he said, “but often, the overriding need is for connections.” He said family life today is very difficult and many problems center around relationship difficulties. “Counseling may be effective in helping people make connections.”

In his 14 years at the helm of the counseling program, said McCann, DiRe has “earned the respect of his colleagues throughout the state. He gets a tremendous level of respect from other providers in town who all speak highly of him. I have the greatest respect for his leadership.”

DiRe deflects any praise coming his way, giving credit instead to his boss and staff. “I’m blessed by the finest staff in the field. They’re just wonderful, very committed and very dedicated people. I like coming to work each day. It’s an opportunity to provide a response to what I believe the Lord is calling me to do.”

Persons interested in the diocese’s counseling services can call 358-4267 for information or to make an appointment. No one is ever turned away for inability to pay.

(DiRe is available to give presentations and seminars to churches or other groups. He may be reached at 358-4269.)


Catholic Charities’ counseling services available throughout Eastern Washington

Three Catholic Charities counselors work full-time in three parishes: St. Charles, St. Mary, and St. Peter in Spokane. DiRe counsels part-time at St. Thomas More Parish, Spokane. Two other counselors work part-time, on call.

In the southern part of the diocese, Catholic Charities provides counseling services with Richard Garcia in Pasco in Walla Walla. Catholic Charities has arrangements with a counseling service in Pullman which can be accessed through Sacred Heart Church or St. Thomas More Newman Center there.

On average, the program offers services to approximately 2,500 people in the diocese each year.

Program funding comes through the Spokane Regional Support Network and Catholic Charities’ Christmas collection.

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