The 10-6-14 edition of the Star Tribune had an article about alternative models for providing mental health services, “Experimental clinic provides mental care without the wait: can the the minute-clinic model work for mental health treatment?”   This article covers a lot of territory. It primarily focuses on a novel service provided by HCMC, a walk-in clinic providing mental health services.  The clinic currently only services patient who have an existing relationship with an HCMC mental health provider.

It offers individual and group therapy and medication management- all without an appointment.  It is designed to be a backup service for patients who, for various reasons, have difficulty keeping their regularly scheduled appointments with their HCMC mental health professionals. The article states, “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 don’t have an appointment.”   The article notes that the program has resulted more visits to therapists at the drop-in center and reduced visits to the HCMC E.R.

The article also, briefly, mentions other unique mental health services that are more clearly like true minute clinics, such as mental health drop in clinics in shopping malls.

One problem with this article is that it does not make a clear and consistent distinction between psychological/counseling services and psychiatric/medication services.  It is obvious that the HCMC program helps address the shortage of psychiatrists, but it is, I think, less obvious that the program’s access to therapists also helps address the shortage of psychiatrists as being able to meet more consistently with a therapist can help reduce psychiatric crises. Quoting a manager, Sally Kratz, the article states, “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.“Being able to get in quickly and get responsive care has made a difference,” Kratz said.”

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