New emergency mental health and addiction clinic provides alternative to ECMC

Aug 3, 2020

When it comes to handling mental health emergencies, CPEP at ECMC is recognized as one of the main places to go in Erie County. But there’s now an alternative to the emergency room in Buffalo-- the Urgent Health Addictions Care Clinic.


Credit Spectrum

Right before the pandemic began, Spectrum Health opened the Urgent Health Addictions Care Clinic on Main Street. Spectrum is also a certified community behavioral health center. As Associate CEO of Spectrum Health and Human Services Cindy Voelker explains, that allows them to do integrated services. 

“So it's physical health, mental health and substance use, as well as in the community work and office work. And it reimburses us at a rate that we can afford to do that,” Voelker said. “That's very different than our old traditional services. So that's something that we've been a part of, and in that model, that's how we came to build out the urgent mental health clinic.”

That integrated model is something that has been discussed in the New York State Assembly the past year as something they could use in other parts of the state. It’s the first of its kind in Erie County.

"A lot of people if they needed help, when we weren't around, they would go to CPEP at ECMC, which is very overwhelmed and overcrowded and has a lot of people," she said. "We had just started this right before the whole COVID situation. We've maintained it open during this time and that is a resource for people. But providing both mental health and addiction services is critical, because they go hand in hand for a lot of people."

Voelker elaborated about the wholistic connection between mental health and physical health. 

“You try to look at all the factors that are contributing to them. So it's about their relationships, their living situation, their employment, their financial stress. It's all these things that contribute to stress into substance use,” she said. “It's their history of having substance use issues in the past. So building a plan for that with individuals is helping them address all of those things while you're also addressing the addiction issue, because if you don't, you're not going to make progress.”

Voelker said making an appointment a week out isn’t going to help. 

“When you're having a major depression, you feel like killing yourself, it doesn't help you to have to wait for help,” she said. 

For anybody in immediate need, Spectrum has a crisis team number (716-882-4357) youth and adults can contact 24/7. Voelker says once you come to the clinic they will “wrap the services around you.” 

“We might give you a case manager to help you find housing or help you with your finances, and we might provide you with a counselor and then also a doctor,” Voelker said. “We also have what we call peers. So people who've been through similar situations in the past, they will work with you because they know what it's like.”