Mental health urgent care clinics see spike in patients as demand increases for long-term services

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Finding long-term mental health services is a difficult challenge facing some Iowans, while two local behavioral urgent cares are seeing a spike in patients.

Broadlawns Psychiatric Urgent Care is seeing 13 new patients a day, and UnityPoint Health’s Behavioral Health Urgent Care sees 17 new patients a day.  

Broadlawns therapist, Leah Kramer, said these mental health urgent cares are the bridge to getting people to long-term services.

“If we have someone coming in saying, ‘I really would like a long-term therapist and I scheduled an appointment but it’s six weeks out,’ one of the things that my coworkers and I will do is say ‘come here in the meantime. Let’s kind of get you settled and managed and then we can transfer that care to a long-term person,’” Kramer said. 

Broadlawns Psychiatric Urgent Care has been open for three years. During the pandemic, it began offering telehealth services and put a kiosk for virtual sessions at Urban Dreams.

UnityPoint Health opened its behavioral urgent care last year to all age groups and has two therapists and two social workers working at this facility. 

Vice President of Behavioral Health at UnityPoint, Kevin Carroll, said they learned early how important this service was to Iowans.

Even though the urgent care started off as a temporary COVID-19 response, the hospital’s administration decided to make it a permanent change. 

Caroll said they’re hoping this urgent care can reduce the number of people who go to the emergency room for behavioral health issues.  

“Only about eight percent of people that come to this clinic are hospitalized at an acute level of care,” Carroll said. “Meaning the vast majority, 92% of people don’t need to go to the emergency room and don’t need to be hospitalized. We can wrap a team and services around them from this outpatient location that’s designed for their care.” 

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