Care when and where it’s needed
In our community, and across the country, many people who need behavioral health services have very limited access to appropriate care. The shortage of psychiatrists and other mental-health specialists in Snohomish county makes it nearly impossible to get a timely initial assessment or even a crisis appointment for help.
This gap in the health care system causes suffering and crisis for individuals and families, and causes emergency departments, who are not equipped to provide this type of care, to become overcrowded.
A new way to get care
In November 2019, Providence Medical Group opened a unique clinic to help ease this health burden in Snohomish county. The adult Behavioral Health Urgent Care clinic welcomes adults 18 and over who need urgent behavioral health intervention, but do not require emergency medical care.
The need for the service arose from the number of patients coming to the Providence Regional Medical Center Everett emergency department, which is one of the state’s busiest, seeking help for mental health issues — about 1,300 a month. Quick attention to mental health needs is difficult to expect of emergency room physicians who are treating heart attacks, broken legs and other medical emergencies. With this in mind, the clinic is located right next to the emergency department, so patients who arrive there with a behavioral health concern can be seen in the urgent care clinic instead, if appropriate. They don’t have to make an appointment, but can simply walk in and ask for help.
Before the clinic opened, many people were coming to the emergency department seeking prescription refills because they couldn’t get an appointment with their mental-health provider for six to eight weeks; they can be seen in the clinic, but much more comprehensive treatment is available. The staff cares for patients who have ongoing mental ailments such as anxiety and depression, paranoia and schizophrenia, as well as those who have situational mental health problems, such as new divorces or personal crises. The clinic’s providers and staff typically screen patients for depression, connect them to long-term resources, prescribe medications, refer to other sources of help and assist with the navigation of resources. Counselors continue to follow up with patients after they’ve left the clinic to help them get the services they need.
No one is turned away due to lack of health insurance. The cost of the office visit is roughly the same as going to an urgent care clinic for medical care.
The clinic’s multidisciplinary team includes psychiatric nurse practitioners, a social worker, a substance use disorder professional, a peer counselor and a patient care specialist who manages the front desk. That mix of providers, including the front desk, is essential. Clinic leaders wanted every interaction to come from a trauma-informed perspective and strive to maintain a very calm-feeling culture in the space.
The urgent care service has limited hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is only open Monday through Friday, which helps to bridge, but not fill, the gap in the need for service. Outside of clinic hours, a large number of patients still seek mental-health services in the hospital’s emergency room. The clinic’s team and leaders hope to expand these hours eventually.
This clinic is funded in part through community members’ donations and grants to Providence General Foundation. Additional funding is provided through Providence St. Joseph Health as part of the organization’s commitment to advance mental, social and spiritual well-being in the communities we serve.
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