ó Even on her worst days, Shirley Thompson used to have to
wait weeks to see her psychiatrist to get help with her
canít put a date on your depression," she said.
problem shared by millions of mental health patients across
the country. In Minnesota alone, nearly 168,000 adults live
with a serious mental illness and one in four experiences a
mental illness of some kind in a given year. Acute shortages
of mental health professionals fuel growing delays for
Thompson finally has a way to get help. Fast.
of waiting weeks for her next scheduled appointment, she can
stop in at a momentís notice to see her psychiatrist at the
Hennepin County Mental Health Center.
center is on the cutting edge of a movement to deliver mental
health care quickly and conveniently ó mirroring the
minute-clinic model for flu and colds.
County officials say its drop-in program at the center,
located on the outskirts of downtown Minneapolis, is the only
one of its kind in the Twin Cities. For now, it only sees
patients already connected to a doctor there ó the service
is not open to walk-ins off the street. Nationally, clinics
are experimenting with other quick delivery methods, from
mobile apps to iPad kiosks. A grocery store in Philadelphia
recently began offering online screenings for mental health to
a shortage of psychiatrists and prescribing nurses all over
the place," said Sally Kratz, manager for the countyís
Mental Health Center.
91 million adults live in areas where a small number of
mental-health professionals makes finding treatment difficult,
according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Nationwide, the problem is getting worse as more psychiatrists
retire without enough graduates in the pipeline. During a
recent five-year span, as the U.S. population grew nearly 5
percent, the number of psychiatrists hardly budged, according
to the Association of American Medical Colleges. So
experiments with delivering care in new ways are sprouting.
wave of the future is really more along the lines of having
integrated care where a provider or group of providers can
really treat the whole body at the same time and know how
things will interact," said Alyson Ferguson of the
Scattergood Foundation, which funded the Philadelphia kiosks.
program recently was honored as a "model practice"
by the National Association of County and City Health
Hennepin County program aims to reach patients who have had
trouble keeping appointments ó a factor that is crucial to
depression contributes to missing appointments, county
officials said, as some patients get confused easily and have
trouble keeping track of dates.
if you missed an appointment, it could take months before you
came back in," Kratz said.
center treats about 3,800 people a year ó mostly those with
serious or chronic mental illnesses, many of whom also are
battling chemical addictions. It offers all patients
diagnostic tests, individual and group therapy and medication
drop-in days at the center, patients can receive an instant
20-minute consultation with a therapist and also have their
medications adjusted. To make room for drop-ins, each
therapist at the Hennepin County center reserves several hours
a week for patients who donít have an appointment.
county is seeing results. In the past two years, the number of
patients participating in mental health consultations with
their therapist has gone up threefold, from 110 to 375,
according to county officials. There also have been fewer
costly visits to the emergency room for psychiatric care since
the drop-in hours started.
able to get in quickly and get responsive care has made a
difference," Kratz said.
BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM)
health advocates elsewhere are pushing the envelope in
different ways. A Shop Rite grocery store in Philadelphia
allows shoppers to take an online mental health assessment at
an iPad kiosk.
right next to the blood pressure cuff and the pharmacy,"
Ferguson said. "We made it a whole wellness corner and
rebranded the area."
screening tool doesnít issue a diagnosis, but it does
provide a list of resources in the area. While there are no
mental health professionals available on site, the staff at
the in-store primary care clinic has been trained in
"mental health first aid," the Scattergood
Foundationís Ferguson said.
kiosk is a great step in elevating the conversation that
mental health really needs to be an integral part of your
overall wellness," she said. "Itís a great way to
push against the mental health stigma and everything that goes
along with it."
minute-clinic model for mental health services is an idea with
promise, says Ed Eide, executive director of the Mental Health
Association of Minnesota.
way we can make any health services more accessible to people,
we all will be healthier," he said.
cautioned that the retail setting could be problematic. For
one thing, itís not discreet, he said. Another concern is
there are no mental health professionals on site.
youíre working on the brain, itís a little bit different
than if youíre working on my ankle," Eide said.
"It takes special training and it takes a better
Hennepin Mental Health Center, Dr. Ngozi Wamuo says the
drop-in hours have helped her see her patients more often, and
that has led to better outcomes.
we see people once in three months," she said. "For
people like (Thompson), the drop-in really has helped. Itís
allowed us to see her on a weekly basis and also on her own
time, so we can meet her where she is at."
Thompson, who has myriad issues, quick access to her
psychiatrist on days when she needs it most has helped her
stay on track.
survived drug addiction and prostitution, and says she is now
focused on staying healthy and being a good mother to her
toddler son, Zantrell. Her psychiatrist proudly noted that
Thompson had recently graduated from a parenting class.
happy that Iím able to walk in that door and see people
saying that Iím a good mom," Thompson said. "Thatís
the best feeling."
1-year-old is often by her side at the drop-in visits.
been through a lot," she said, wiping tears from her
face, and sometimes that has made it difficult for her to get
to appointments and continue her treatment. "I basically
was about to give up. With this walk-in clinic, there is no
giving up. I can walk in here, guaranteed to be seen. Itís
like a security blanket."