Blue Devil of the Week: Cutting Through Red Tape

Financial care counselor steers patients around potential hurdles to getting help

Sharon Craig helps patients at Duke’s Child Development and Behavioral Health Clinic navigate insurance obstacles and focus on getting help.
Sharon Craig helps patients at Duke’s Child Development and Behavioral Health Clinic navigate insurance obstacles and focus on getting help.

Sharon Craig

Financial Care Counselor, Child Development and Behavioral Health Clinic

Years at Duke: 20

What she does: At first glance, Craig’s job seems simple. She’s the person who makes sure insurance plans cover patients’ visits to her clinic. And if the visits aren’t covered, she works on ways to help patients pay.

But with the Child Development Behavior and Health Clinic focusing on mental health, which over the years hasn’t been consistently included in insurance plans, the coverage questions she deals with aren’t always easy ones.

“If they’re unable to pay, we try to reach out and find ways for them to come visit us,” Craig said. “Because if you’re not mentally well, a lot of times, you’re not physically well. Mental health is really important to people being healthy.”

What she loves about Duke: While Craig appreciates that her clinic helps people who are struggling, she also values the care her co-workers give one another.

“In this building, it feels like family,” Craig said. “… If somebody’s going through something, there’s always someone to talk to. You get good support from your co-workers.”

A memorable day at work: Craig said that it’s not uncommon to have people who got help from the clinic as children to return years later to get help for their own children.

“They’re happy to come back because they remember something somebody said or did in this building to make them feel comfortable and at ease with what their situation was at that time,” Craig said.

Meaningful object around her work area: Against the wall opposite the large, sunny window in Craig’s office is a filing cabinet. On top of the cabinet is a roughly foot-tall cluster of ceramic sunflowers, Craig’s favorite flower.

The sculpture was a gift from a former co-worker. As a substance abuse counselor, the co-worker’s days were spent trying to untangle the thorny problems of young patients, often an emotionally taxing task. As a cheerful presence in the tight-knit office, Craig helped lighten the mood, something the co-worker appreciated.

Before she retired, the co-worker presented Craig with the sunflowers.

“She said, ‘I always heard you say that you like sunflowers because they make you happy,’” Craig remembers the co-worker telling her. “She said, ‘That’s how you make me feel. I saw these and I thought of you.’ … Now I always think of her.”

First ever job: At 16 years old, Craig got a job working as a part-time receptionist in the office of Durham’s long-gone South Square Mall.

“I did it after school,” Craig said. “My sister worked there, she had worked there forever. She told me she was going to get me a job, so that was neat.”

Best advice ever received: “From my mother, and it’s going to sound so cliché, but it is so true. She said ‘Treat people the way you want to be treated,’ and ‘Everybody is equal.’ She told us that all our lives.”

Something that most people don’t know about her: Earlier this year, Craig became a great grandmother. Her daughter’s daughter had a daughter named Kalie. And with Craig’s mother, 84-year old Bednia Wells, living nearby, Kalie has often been surrounded by four generations of women in her family.

“That’s kind of cool, most people don’t get to see that,” Craig said.

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