Behavioral health urgent care: Access to help when you need it

Nearly one in five adults in the U.S. is living with some form of mental illness, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. Moreover, an estimated one in three individuals has suffered from a mental health or substance abuse condition within the last 12 months. Research also suggests:

  • Approximately one in eight visits to the emergency department is for a behavioral health concern.
  • Estimates suggest that only half of people with mental illnesses receive treatment.

To address this growing need for accessible mental health treatment, in 2019 Providence opened the Behavioral Health Urgent Care in Everett, Washington. Emergency departments are one of the most expensive places for patients to receive care. Urgent care clinics focused on behavioral health issues can both ensure patients get the targeted care they need and help reduce their out of pocket expenses.

In addition to addressing the unique needs of patients struggling with behavioral health conditions, the Providence clinic in Everett also helps connect patients to providers in the community for ongoing care. Cherie Russum, senior manager of communications, invited two guests to share more about this unique facility. Her guests include:

  • Laura Knapp, Director of Behavioral Health
  • Katie Gilligan, Psychiatrist and Behavioral Health Medical Director

You can watch the full 25-minute conversation directly below, or scroll down to read the Q&A highlights from the discussion.


Can you give us an idea of what behavioral health care and intervention services look like today?

Gilligan: Nationally and locally—even before the pandemic—we've had a real shortage of behavioral health services. Now we have increased needs and a lot of decreased services in the community because of COVID-19. We know that locally, it can be a six- to eight-week wait for someone to see a psychiatrist or a psychiatric nurse practitioner, just to get medications for their condition. And statistics show that about one in three individuals has suffered from a mental health or substance use disorder over the past 12 months. With limited services, often people can't get that care; and then they're in crisis. They end up going to the emergency department, which is not an optimal place to get care for behavioral health conditions. They're often told to follow up in the community, which then creates an unproductive cycle of patients who need care but can’t get it when they need it.

What would happen if I came to your clinic and I were in crisis? What should I expect?

Knapp: We put a lot of work into making sure the environment is very calm and inviting. When you come in, you'll meet with a front desk person who will get you registered and then you’ll meet with somebody on our multidisciplinary team. Oftentimes, that's our peer counselor, which is somebody who has experience with mental health themselves. We also have psychiatric nurse practitioners, a social worker and a substance use disorder professional. So, depending on what the individual need is, you'll meet with our clinician and we provide that intervention. Then the goal for us is to provide that stabilization and connect patients to community partners for ongoing care. That’s incredibly important because it's challenging to navigate mental health services in our communities.

How has the Behavioral Health Urgent Care benefitted the community since its opening in 2019?

Gilligan: Since we’ve opened, we’ve had a little over 3,000 visits (as of December 2020). It has been widely used, even without a lot of advertising—so we know the need is there. We're hearing from patients and a lot of providers in the community that they really love being able to tell people they can come here. It's kind of a safety net -- is how I like to think about it. You can come here if you're in a crisis; you don't have to go to the emergency department.

The COVID-19-19 pandemic has really affected mental health for everyone. What impact are you seeing on peoples’ mental health?

Gilligan: We're seeing a lot of anxiety, people with worries about their own finances and overall stability. And we're seeing a lot of increased use of substances like alcohol and other drugs. And some people who have maintained sobriety for a long time are having a hard time with returning to use. We're also seeing a lot of people stressed out with their kids being at home all the time and too much togetherness. The great thing about our urgent care is that we’ve stayed open the entire time throughout COVID-19. We’ve also been able to accommodate virtual visits, and that will probably continue indefinitely.

Knapp: One of the challenges with COVID-19 that we're seeing is that a lot of our community programs have had to reduce or change their offerings. They’ve found that for some individuals telehealth works great, and for others it’s really challenging. And it could be as simple as that they live more rural and they don't have internet access. So, the benefit for us is being able to sort through those barriers with patients.

Share your #mentalhealth struggles and strategies with readers @providence.


Find a doctor

Our behavioral health experts offer virtual and in-person consultations to bring you convenient, confidential mental healthcare options. With Providence Express Care Virtual, you can access a full range of healthcare services. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory or search for one in your area.






Additional resources

Providence Behavioral Health Urgent Care in Everett

Providence behavioral health services

National Institute of Mental Health statistics

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.

About the Author

Whether it's stress, anxiety, dementia, addiction or any number of life events that impede our ability to function, mental health is a topic that impacts nearly everyone. The Providence Mental Health Team is committed to offering every-day tips and clinical advice to help you and your loved ones navigate mental health conditions.

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