New York State plans to open 24-hour mental health urgent care facilities. Spectrum Health, who currently operates as Erie County’s only "Urgent Mental Health and Addiction Care Clinic," has seen the need for services rise since opening.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo highlighted the need for more accessible mental health services during a speech about the upcoming budget last week.
"We are launching 24-hour urgent care centers. This is an unforeseen, but very real byproduct of COVID-- has been the mental health, the stress, the isolation, the addiction problems, the domestic violence problems," Cuomo said. "And we have to recognize it for what it is and we have to address it."
Spectrum Health’s Urgent Care Clinic, located on 1280 Main Street in downtown Buffalo, opened last year right before the pandemic began.
Kevin Beckman, the facilities Managing Director of Clinic Operations, said there have long been unmet needs for rapid access to quality care.
“We have case managers, we have a nurse practitioner, we have licensed therapists, and the whole purpose was to really, under one umbrella, look at that individual from a comprehensive lens,” Beckman said.
Anybody in need of mental health or addiction services can walk in day of and receive care. Beckman said they examine the social determinants of health to help connect whoever may pass through their doors to other community services.
“When we first started this adventure, the original name for the project was called 'Holistic Health,'” Beckman said.
The belief, as Clinic Program Director Riannon Martin sees it, is many essential medical services are tied to each other.
“Trying to understand the underlying mental health symptoms could be exacerbated by medical,” Martin said. "So being able to offer those services, I believe, is very important to understanding and treating the individual as a whole."
Both Beckman and Martin explain the importance of creating a welcoming presence as someone enters.
“When the person comes in, we kind of have a saying, 'How can I help you?' Right? I'm very keen on that being the leading statement for us,” Beckman said.
“But we usually have one of our intake clinicians provide them with education on the services and especially what they will be completing the first day for services,” Martin added.
“The individual in the same day, because of same day services, will be able to have a nice assessment to see where they are. And if the presenting issue is housing, we have a targeted case manager who can assist with that. If the presenting issue appears to be more medical, then we have the nurse who can assist with that,” Martin said.
There’s also a psychiatric nurse practitioner and psychologists available during open hours.
With a diverse staff at hand, Beckman acknowledges concerns some may have about in-person urgent medical care costs.
“Even if an individual has no ability to pay, we will not turn them away,” Beckman said.
Beckman said one demographic they’ve been getting, is local college students.
“We had one student come in who was from the far east and had no ability to pay and was out of the medications and couldn't get ahold of their provider in their home country," said Beckman. "We provided the script for that individual, who went back to the school counselor and said, 'Hey, look, they were able to help us here.' So now we're getting cause from those on campus counseling, when the students also need some psychiatric medication services.”
Getting a script filled. Getting a physical. Being connected to the right case worker for housing needs. Spectrum Health staff see a mental health and addiction urgent care clinic as a bridge to accessibility.