ASHEBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Mental health facilities and resource groups in Asheboro and parts of Randolph County have begun to brace for a possible uptick in calls for help as news continues to unravel about the murder-suicide on Hamlin Street.
On Monday, family members of Fatima Alston, 68, and Tiona Sesmas, 33, were found dead inside Fatima’s house that afternoon.
Newly released 911 calls detail firsthand witness accounts from Fatima’s husband.
He told operators that while in the backroom of the house, he heard a gunshot. He then said that Sesmas tried to come into his room and shoot him. However, he was able to escape and go to a neighbor’s house where he called 911.
Family members tell us that Sesmas shot and killed her grandmother, then turned the gun on herself. Hours after the shooting, they told FOX8 that Sesmas had suffered from mental health episodes.
“For this to happen, it had to be a serious mental issue going on…she did what she did. It’s over. But anybody that needs mental help, please reach out and get help, so nothing like this will happen,” one family member said.
Traditionally, mental health resources are harder to come by in rural communities. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic started, practices have begun to fill in gaps for those communities.
Litha Charles opened Asheboro Counseling and Wellness in 2020 and has grown her team by a dozen staff members who service nearly 700 people from across the Triad and beyond.
While her practice has grown, there are challenges that many families face due to their rural locations.
There may be long drives to a location that may not be made as often as needed, or there might be a stigma that has lasted too long in a family or a community, which could lead to severe mental health problems going unchecked.
A difficulty that Charles and her team face is a shortage of employees.
There is a waitlist of about 100 patients who want to be seen by her team.
“Across the board, we’re are seeing wait lists of every practice both in town and beyond,” Charles said. “When we have somebody who calls in who needs services quickly, we try to give them a referral and keep track of who has space…a lot of times, they will have a wait list as well.”
There are also varying levels of care, and in cases where someone needs a higher level of mental health care, access isn’t always easy to obtain.
“When functioning is more impacted, they are having a difficult time working or maybe they’re impacting their families in a difficult way or threatening others, then we need to seek a higher care,” Charles said. “I think it’s a challenge across the state. We struggle to find places for people who need a higher level of care.”
To better serve families, facilities like Asheboro Counseling and Wellness have ramped up efforts for telehealth visits and have moved to group sessions, which can help with the shortage of staff members but also be extremely beneficial for people in certain situations.