In an effort to keep those suffering from mental health conditions out of hospital emergency rooms, county health officials in Los Angeles recently opened a mental health urgent care clinic.
The main focus of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Mental Health Urgent Care Center is to evaluate, stabilize, and treat patients in need of rapid mental health care, while also coordinating long term treatment. The center, run by Exodus Recovery, will be open around the clock, 24 hours a day, and seven days a week. The new facility also has the capacity to treat up to 16 adults and six adolescents at any given time. Patients can stay up to one day, and will undergo a thorough psychiatric evaluation, in addition to receiving immediate care such as counseling and medication. Long-term care, such as outpatient therapy, will also be coordinated for the patient.
The new facility can care for patients in severe crisis, and expects law enforcement and paramedics to bring in patients as well. However, the facility cannot accept patients who are incoherent, extremely aggressive, or those who require emergency medical attention. They will be sent to inpatient psychiatric facilities or hospital emergency departments.
However, staff will be able to place patients who they feel are a threat to themselves or others on a 72 hour psychiatric hold.
California has seen a number of crisis stabilization units, also known as mental health urgent care centers, opening due to the lack of available psychiatric beds and the steady increase of mental health patients arriving at hospital emergency departments having nowhere else to go, according to mental healthcare advocates and experts. As of now, four centers have opened with plans for several more in Los Angeles County.
“We see a need quite often for easily accessible mental health care as patients present with these symptoms frequently in our urgent care center and unfortunately we are not equipped to provide care for them,” says Alison Hare, Practice Manager at AFC/Doctors Express Urgent Care. “All we can really do to help is give these patients information on professionals who can help them so I can see how mental health urgent cares can be hugely successful and beneficial to a community.”
County Supervisor Mark Ridlet-Thomas believes these new centers offer a smarter and more human approach to treating those with mental health emergencies. Additionally, county mental health director Marvin Southard believes the centers provide a much more efficient and effective means of caring for patients with mental illness, while being less disruptive to hospital emergency departments.
According to statistics from the California Hospital Association, hospitals across the state saw a 47% increase in dealings with patients who had mental health needs between 2006 and 2011, compared to a 14% increase in all patients.
Similar to medical urgent care facilities, mental health urgent care centers help to ease the burden placed on hospital emergency departments, and provide patients medical are at reduced costs. Additionally, they help to bridge the gap between primary care doctor offices and emergency rooms.