Since deciding last fall to open a psychiatric urgent care center, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services President and CEO Mark Eastburg has heard from interested colleagues at care providers in the region asking about the possibility of replicating the model elsewhere.
If the center that opened this month at Pine Rest’s Cutlerville campus works as hoped, Eastburg may take them up on that partnership offer. The response affirmed Pine Rest’s decision to proceed with a psychiatric urgent care center to begin improving access to behavioral health care, he said.
“We’ve had inquiries from other providers that we know and that say, ‘If you open another one, can we be in line for the conversation?’” Eastburg said. “It’s more confirmation that we’re on the right track.”
Pine Rest opened the new psychiatric urgent care center on April 15. The center works to assess and treat adults experiencing psychiatric symptoms for depression, anxiety, panic attacks, disturbing or suicidal thoughts, acute grief or substance use disorders.
Through the new center, Pine Rest wants to provide better access for people who need immediate behavioral health care and often wind up in hospital emergency rooms that are not as readily equipped or staffed to handle their conditions. The three hospitals in Kent County in 2016 recorded more than 14,000 emergency room visits from patients with a behavioral health condition that could have been better assessed and handled in another setting, according to Pine Rest.
Pine Rest plans to analyze data from the new urgent care center to assess market needs for more centers, Eastburg said. If the statistics prove a market need, Pine Rest prefers to pursue additional locations through partnerships, he said.
Eastburg points to a vision statement crafted by directors which states: “The focus of Pine Rest over the next three to five years is to solve the behavioral health access problems in the communities that we serve through partnerships, with emphasis on ‘partnerships.’”
“If this is meeting community needs, then we should think about where we go next and make it available to even more people,” Eastburg said. “If it really takes off, I would imagine we could accelerate our timeline (for considering additional locations) based on community response. It’s hard to say. We’re really kind of taking it day by day right now, but we’re very open to growth and expansion through partnerships.
“In six months, we’ll have a pretty good idea what our next step is, maybe sooner.”
Since last fall, and based on feedback, Pine Rest already has begun to consider expanding to provide urgent care for people younger than age 18.
“That’s probably our next step in discernment,” Eastburg said.
After an influx of patients late afternoon one day soon after the current center opened, Pine Rest may also look to adjust its hours, Eastburg said. Flexibility is needed as Pine Rest tries out and assesses the effectiveness of a model that’s not only the first of its kind in the region but among a small number nationwide, he said.
“We’re absolutely in learning mode,” Eastburg said. “Because there are so few examples of programs like this in the country that can share their experience, we’re going to have to do our own research so we can figure out how we can be the most responsive. We went into this knowing that we’re going to have to be flexible.”
The psychiatric urgent care center presently opens 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The center accepts most commercial health insurance, plus Medicare and Medicaid.
Pine Rest expects the psychiatric urgent care center will serve an average of 40 people per day.