NEWS | November 27, 2017

New county mental health urgent care clinic provides alternative to emergency department

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.)

UC Davis commitment to mental health care

The psychiatry and behavioral sciences department trains the next generation of psychiatrists who are committed to delivering compassionate clinical care for underserved patients living in Sacramento and beyond.

Compared to 1995, when only two psychiatry faculty and two residents worked in the county, today:

* 41 psychiatry faculty work full- or part-time at a county-operated or county-funded agency

* 33 psychiatry residents and fellows train at a county site

* nearly every third-year medical student spends at least four weeks in training at a county program.

UC Davis School of Medicine graduates now choose to pursue careers in psychiatry (approximately 9 percent) at twice the national average. And 22 faculty who graduated from a UC Davis residency or fellowship program have remained in the department and work at a county site.

Sacramento County is opening a Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic Nov. 29 for adults and children with less acute psychiatric crises or for those requiring an urgent psychiatric evaluation. Located on the county’s Mental Health Treatment Center campus on Stockton Blvd., the walk-in clinic provides an important alternative to UC Davis Medical Center's busy emergency department.

"The urgent care clinic will meet a vital need in the Sacramento mental health community,” said Shannon Suo, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and medical director of the new clinic. “Individuals will be able to obtain immediate assistance with their urgent mental health needs, avoiding costly emergency room visits, hospitalizations and functional decline that results in lost health for our patients.”

Open daily

The clinic has the capacity to serve thousands of people each year. It is open 365 days a year from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Treatment is limited to care that can be provided within a 12-hour period.

“The clinic is open to individuals without an appointment,” said Lorin M. Scher, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of emergency psychiatric services at UC Davis Medical Center. “The clinical team, who include clinical psychiatrists, peer supports and case managers, will treat patients and also help to identify service gaps, referring them to appropriate mental health treatment providers in the community.” 

The urgent care clinic is one of the innovative projects funded by the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). Passed by California voters as Proposition 63 in November 2004, the legislation authorized a tax increase on millionaires to develop and expand community-based mental health programs.

Innovative projects are designed to test new mental health practices to increase access to mental health care, including for underserved populations, improve quality of mental health services or promote interagency collaborations. The new clinic is funded with $12.5 million for five years.

“We strive to provide a patient-centered approach to behavioral health crises in the emergency department, yet a busy ED is by definition a less therapeutic environment than other outpatient settings,” Scher said.  “The urgent care clinic also will be able to provide more expedited follow ups for patients who are discharged from psychiatric hospitals and local emergency departments.”

An interagency collaboration

Turning Point, a community mental health agency, was awarded the county contract to operate the urgent care clinic. Two UC Davis psychiatrists will staff the facility, and UC Davis child psychiatrists will be on call to provide consultation after hours and on weekends to the general psychiatrists and clinical staff working there. Carolyn Dewa, director of the psychiatry department’s mental health services’ research and evaluation program at UC Davis, is also working closely with the county’s evaluation group to develop and assess the project’s outcomes.

Turning Point’s CEO, Al Rowlett, is a volunteer clinical professor of psychiatry at UC Davis and teaches, with other faculty, a year-long course on community mental health to second-year psychiatry residents to better inform them about the county’s programs and resources. UC Davis’ psychiatry department received MHSA funds to create and sustain this program

“The collaboration between the county, UC Davis and Turning Point is designed to help patients who need immediate mental health care,” said Robert Hales, professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the county’s medical director for behavioral health. Hales has worked closely with county behavioral health leadership in developing the program for nearly three years and testified before the Mental Health Services Act Oversight and Accountability Commission to support the county in making the new clinic a reality.