(Durham, NC) – Six months after opening, a behavioral health urgent care clinic operated by Carolina Outreach with funding from Alliance Behavioral Healthcare is filling a gap in services for those with mental health needs and substance use disorders.
The goal of the urgent care is to connect people with behavioral health care and services before urgent situations become crises. Without the urgent care center, someone suffering from depression, acute anxiety or substance abuse problems, or who has a child with behavioral issues in school, might have to wait weeks for an appointment or go to a hospital emergency department, which is not the best place for them to get help.
Alliance Director of Hospital Relations Margaret Brunson said the urgent care clinic is part of Alliance’s vision of creating more accessible behavioral health services. “We were ready to expand the continuum of care for our community and looking at open access, and an urgent care facility was a logical step,” Brunson said. “We decided to work with Carolina Outreach because they were already operating a walk-in clinic in Durham, so this was a natural extension of that model.”
Clinic staff see people in a variety of situations, including people who need a medication refill to remain stable but face a wait to see their regular provider, people in acute psychological distress, and people seeking urgent assistance with a substance use disorder. The clinic has also been used by school staff to get quick help for youths in distress, and by parents who are required to get psychiatric assessments for children before they are allowed back in school but face a long wait for an appointment at a traditional mental health practice.
A visit to the urgent care averages about two hours, and begins with a nursing assessment and a drug and alcohol screening to assess whether an individual is physically stable, followed by a crisis assessment to determine what services are appropriate. Clinic staff also do an assessment of social determinants, such as housing, food security and social support, to determine whether an individual needs to be connected with other services to maintain stability.
On average, 89 percent of the individuals assessed are seen by a physician on the same day and 72 percent are discharged with a prescription. Before discharge all individuals are either referred back to their primary care and/or existing behavioral health provider or linked to a new behavioral health provider with a scheduled appointment.
“We are filling a gap in the crisis continuum that has existed for far too long in our community,” said Marissa Holsten, the clinic and urgent care manager for Carolina Outreach. “We can help people receive the right care before or as they go into crisis to prevent them from reaching that edge where they need a higher level of care.”
Holsten said the clinic served on average almost 100 people a month during its first six months. She said that at current staffing levels the clinic could serve 70 to 75 people a week and with increased staffing they could serve up to 100 per week.
The clinic is designed to serve individuals with Medicaid or those uninsured within Alliance’s service area of Durham, Wake, Cumberland, and Johnston counties. The facility is not currently able to accept private insurance, however individuals who are privately insured can pay an out-of-pocket fee for services.
The clinic is located at 2670 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd. in Durham. Service hours are 8 am to 7 pm Monday through Thursday, 8 am to 3 pm Friday and 9 am to noon Saturday.
Alliance is the managed care organization for publicly funded behavioral healthcare services for the people of Durham, Wake, Cumberland and Johnston counties. Alliance works with a network of almost 2,200 private providers to serve the needs of 471,000 Medicaid-eligible and uninsured individuals within a total population of 1.8 million.