Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services’ psychiatric urgent care center has served more than 13,500 patients since opening in 2019, a volume that exceeded expectations and accelerated as the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on mental health.
The Grand Rapids-based Pine Rest recently reported the patient volumes for the walk-in urgent care center’s first three years of operations. The clinic served 5,896 patients between April 2020 and April 2021, and 4,610 patients in the most recent 12-month period.
The 13,500 patients accounted for nearly 17,300 visits to the center over three years.
The patient volumes confirm Pine Rest’s strategic decision to open a psychiatric urgent care center that can assess and begin treating patients experiencing a mental health crisis who require immediate attention. Spikes in incidence rates of mental illness during the pandemic further affirmed the need, Pine Rest officials say.
“It definitely has exceeded our expectations in terms of the demand after the pandemic, but even before this started we were pretty clear that this is a need in the community. We were sure that we would have plenty of folks who would use this and that we would be very busy. That has happened,” said Dr. Bibhas Singla, a psychiatrist and medical director for hospital and residential services at Pine Rest who oversees the urgent care clinic.
“The pandemic’s made things busier, especially in the last year,” Singla said. “The first year of the pandemic, everybody was hunkering down, but then the mental health pandemic from the COVID-19 pandemic followed after that. It’s just been busier.”
Housed in the Van Andel Center at Pine Rest’s 68th Street campus in Cutlerville, the psychiatric urgent care center averages 25 patients or more per day and operates 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends.
Pine Rest opened the psychiatric urgent care center to improve access to mental health care and alleviate the number of patients who seek help at hospital emergency rooms, which often are not equipped or have the trained staff to handle their condition.
The urgent care center offers same-day assessment and treatment for adults experiencing acute psychiatric symptoms — such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, disturbing or suicidal thoughts, acute grief, difficulty managing daily activities, and substance use disorders — and cannot wait for an outpatient visit.
“We want to raise the level of the quality of mental health treatment for everybody in the community, and that’s what this clinic has achieved: improved access. We will continue to work toward that goal,” Singla said.
Since opening, the urgent care center has “has become a lifeline for thousands in need of treatment,” Pine Rest President and CEO Mark Eastburg said.
Pine Rest has been adding staff to the clinic since opening in April 2019 as patient volumes grew and can continue to do so, Singla said. Pine Rest also may extend hours, he said.
“I don’t expect this need to decrease or slow down, pandemic or not. Mental health access has been a problem in our community for a very long time,” Singla said.
Pine Rest presently has no plans to open a second psychiatric urgent care location, although “there are always conversations and talks about expanding to other communities,” Singla said.
“We’re trying to focus on this clinic right now with our main campus,” Singla said. “We don’t have any plans in motion yet, but the need exists in our community and surrounding communities as well. It’s not something we won’t explore or talk about in the future.”
Anxiety and depression are the top mental health conditions the urgent care center has seen in the first three years, he said. Quite often, patients have both conditions or two or three co-morbidities, Singla said.
More than 2,650 patients were from Kent County, followed by neighboring Ottawa County and Kalamazoo County. Some patients have come from as far away as Indiana and the Upper Peninsula.
Of the total patients, nearly two-thirds were assessed and treated with medication, Singla said. Another 15 to 20 percent were referred to the next level of care, such as a detox unit for patients with a substance use disorder, and about 15 percent were referred to an inpatient psychiatric facility, he said.
For more information or to make an appointment at the Pine Rest psychiatric urgent care center, call (616) 455-9200 or go to pinerest.org/urgent.