Mental health urgent care center turns 1; sees twice as many patients as expected

Oct 17, 2019

Rochester Regional Health’s urgent care center for mental health has turned 1 year old.

Program Manager Melissa Shoemaker said the Behavioral Health Access and Crisis Center has seen more than 2,100 patients in its first year of operation.

That’s about twice what planners expected, Shoemaker said.

Drawings by patients at Rochester Regional Health's urgent care clinic for behavioral health hang in the facility's day room.
Credit Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

The clinic dedicated to urgent care for behavioral health is a first in the Rochester area, said Shoemaker.

Prior to the opening of the center, located in the basement of Rochester Regional’s St. Mary’s Campus on Genesee Street, “emergency departments were being flooded with people coming in in crisis for mental health or chemical dependency reasons,” she said.

Shoemaker said that’s often not a good system for treating mental health difficulties. “When you’re having a mental health crisis, the last place you would want to be is in an emergency department, where there’s a lot of chaos, a lot of waiting time, and you’re there for many hours.”

The number of people coming in for help with addiction has been surprising, Shoemaker said. “We knew that was an issue -- a big issue -- in our community. We did not know how many people were going to come to us with it,” she said.

“We have seen more people asking us for chemical dependency help than we ever dreamed.”

Colin Scantlin, who directs acute psychiatric services at Rochester Regional, said the mental health urgent care model saves money for both patients and for the health care system.

It removes “some of the unnecessary treatment” that mental health patients get in an emergency room, Scantlin said. “EKGs are not cheap. Bloodwork is not cheap. Being seen by an emergency department physician is not inexpensive.”

Melissa Shoemaker is the program manager at Rochester Regional Health's mental health urgent care center, which turned 1 year Wednesday.
Credit Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

Rochester Regional says most of the patients at the urgent care site are literal walk-ins – people going through a difficult mental health situation who walk to the clinic.

The facility’s aim is to stabilize those people mentally and emotionally, and then set them up with a longer-term provider to continue their care.

The next step in the facility’s development is expanding its mobile response team, Shoemaker and Scantlin said. That team responds to calls for mental health evaluations and provides urgent care on the spot.

“We have patients call us. We have primary care doctors call us. We have other community providers call us and make referrals because they’re concerned about somebody and they need us to go out and check on them,” Shoemaker said.