Metro Detroiters who need urgent mental and behavioral health care can now get it without going to a hospital emergency room.
Common Ground is opening the region’s first virtual Behavioral Health Urgent Care with an aim of filling a huge gap in services.
“The time is really good because there is such a high need out there in our in our community right now,” said Heather Rae, president and CEO of Common Ground, a 24-hour crisis services nonprofit agency that is expanding the care it already provides to more than 88,000 people at sites in Pontiac and Royal Oak.
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“The pandemic has caused so much stress and anxiety for so many people. For those who were already struggling, this has tipped them into really needing to reach out for care.
“It drives the demand for the services to a level that needs to catch up with people who are saying, ‘I need help. I’m not feeling well. I’m lonely. I’m anxious. I’m depressed. I’m stressed.’ “
But finding that health care has been a challenge for many in a state with a shortage of psychologists, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners and others trained to provide behavioral health services when demand for their help has risen so dramatically.
“We get calls to our our call center on a regular basis saying, ‘Can you refer me to a doctor or a therapist? We can’t find one. There’s a waiting list.’
“Even those who have insurance, really good insurance, are having a hard time finding behavioral health care.”
A report published in January by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan suggests as many as 40% of Michiganders with behavioral health conditions are going without treatment. And roughly 80% of people with substance-use disorders are not receiving care.
Adults who can’t get an appointment to see a psychologist or psychiatrist to refill prescriptions or get counseling help before a mental health problem or behavioral health issue turns into a crisis can now use Common Ground’s urgent care, Rae said.
“They can’t get in to see their doctor for three weeks, sometimes even longer. … There’s a need for on-demand services. No scheduled appointments are necessary, and we’ll have daytime and evening hours, including weekends.”
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Although stigma has long been a reason why many people who need it haven’t sought help, that’s changing, Rae said, and it’s also driving up demand even more.
“It is much more common now for people to say: ‘I’ve got to take care of my whole self, that means not just my physical health care, but also my mental well-being.’ ” Rae said.
To meet that continually rising need for services, Common Ground plans to add a physical brick-and-mortar behavioral health urgent care location as well.
“Right now we’re looking at properties in Southfield, but we have not signed a lease yet,” said Heidi Warrington, chief nursing officer. “That way, we can capture the tri-county area. It’s a denser population.”
The organization aims to reach an additional 15,000 people in its first year through both its virtual and physical urgent care sites.
“It could be much higher than that,” Rae said. “This has not been done in our area before, so we’re sort of trailblazers in a lot of ways. More precise projections don’t exist right now in our area. We just don’t know how many people there are going to be.”
Initially, service at the virtual urgent care, slated to open Monday, will be available only to adults ages 18 and older, but that’s expected to quickly expand as well, Rae said.
“We think it is better for the service, in terms of the ramping up time … to start with adults and then add kids,” she said. “We’re saying in three months, we should be ready to add children.”
The cost of an evaluation at the urgent care is $220, with fees for psychotherapy ranging from $75-125, depending on the length of the session. For people with insurance, the out-of-pocket costs could be lower. Common Ground urges patients to check with their insurance provider to verify coverage in advance.
Wait times should be minimal in Common Ground’s online portal, Warrington said.
“We want that total visit to be less than 90 minutes,” she said. “You just log in and you’ll go into the virtual waiting room just like at an urgent care. Then, the master’s-prepared clinician is going to review your case and then get you to a nurse practitioner right away.”
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The urgent care isn’t for people in a true crisis who are feeling suicidal, Warrington said.
“We’re aiming at treating a lot of anxiety, depression, things like that,” she said. “If anybody needs emergency service, we want to be explicit that people still need to call 911.”
People in crisis also can call or text Common Ground’s 24-hour Resource and Crisis Helpline at 800-231-1127.
To access the online Behavioral Health Urgent Care, go to Common Ground’s website, commongroundhelps.org, and click on the purple urgent care icon to enter the waiting room to be treated by a clinician. The service will be available 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, and 10 a.m.-2pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
Contact Kristen Shamus: [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Common Ground to open online Behavioral Health Urgent Care