Bridging the gap between traditional mental health care and the emergency room

In the beginning, Dr. Kelly Wosnik never intended to become a pioneer in mental health.

And yet here she was, standing proudly in front of the business she pioneered: Utah’s first mental health urgent care clinic dedicated entirely to mental health emergencies.

The clinic opened in May to considerable fanfare. The mayors of Orem and Provo were in attendance for the ribbon cutting, as were State Senator (and well known mental health advocate) Daniel Thatcher and the Orem Police Department, among others, people who are well aware of the critical need for mental illness to be treated in the same way as his physical counterparts.

In a sea of ​​urgent care facilities located up and down the Wasatch Front and beyond that treat everything from sore throats to broken bones, there is now finally one dedicated to treating urgent mental health issues.

With regular medical care you can go to urgent care or you can go to the emergency room, Wosnik explains. But with mental health, if there’s something urgent or life threatening, there’s only emergency room. And the only thing they do in the mental health ER is admit you if you’re suicidal, and if you’re not they tell you to follow up with your regular doctor.

This is a process that can and often takes days, weeks, even months. It’s time for the bad to get worse.

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The door of the newly opened Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic in Orem on Monday 5th June 2023.

Mental health was actually my least favorite subject in school, Wosnik confesses.

Twenty years ago, after graduating with her Doctor of Nursing Practice from the University of Utah, her plan as a practicing nurse was to run a regular family study that focused on sore throats, headaches, stomachaches, colds, and so on; the usual suspects of physical health.

Someone walks in, you have an instant response for them, you fix them and send them on their way, remember.

But the more people she treated at Bristol Health, the clinic she opened in Utah County, the more she heard variations of By The Way, I’m Having Panic Attacks or By The Way, I’m Having Suicidal Thoughts.

She did what she could, but she was too busy to give these mental health issues the attention they deserved, and referring her patients to psychiatrists and therapists more often than not involved long waits.

It annoyed her that mental illnesses received so little attention. She knew firsthand what it was like to be outside the medical mainstream and clamoring for attention. Kelly was born with a rare genetic skeletal disorder called CCD (cleidocranial dysplasia) and she had to undergo multiple facial surgeries when she was younger. As a result, I’ve had moments in my life with depression and anxiety, she says. (As a registered nurse, she started the nonprofit CCD Smiles, dedicated to bringing awareness and help to others with the disorder. You may have seen her in commercial appearances with her friend, Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo , which also has CCD.)

Growing up with a military veteran has only increased her empathy for those with mental illness. When Richard Wosnik returned from the Vietnam War more than 50 years ago, he brought with him a case of PTSD. But no one has diagnosed it, and certainly no one has talked about it. While Kelly was a girl, mood swings, detachment, and flashbacks were all part of her father knowing about her.

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Dr Kelly Wosnik poses for a portrait in her office at the newly opened Mental Health Urgent Care clinic in Orem on Monday, June 5, 2023.

It wasn’t until his father was 60 that he began to appreciate what he had been carrying around with him untreated for decades. On a family genealogy trip to Poland, it was just the two of them; they had plenty of time to talk. In their conversations, Kelly acknowledged that her father’s symptoms were similar to those of many of the patients she was treating for depression and anxiety.

When she and her father returned from that trip in 2015, Kelly converted her practice at Bristol Health into full-time mental care. She was the only supplier at the beginning. Eight years later, she oversees a staff of 12 therapists and 11 health care workers. In May, the clinic treated her 15,000th patient.

Now, it’s taken it a step further by adding urgent care to the lineup.

Initially, Mental Health Urgent Care (mentalhealthurgentcare.com) will be open 6-10pm weekday evenings and 10am-4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Our doors are open for you, the website proclaims. This means actual physical ports located at 1123 W. Center Street in Orem, as well as virtual Internet ports.

We can help any Utah resident wherever they live, Wosnik says.

As time goes on, Wosnik hopes for two things: first, urgent care work hours will expand and second, that he will have some competition.

Utah ranks 41st out of 50 states for a high prevalence of mental illness and a low rate of access to care, he points out, citing a study by Mental Health America. Last year, 34% of Utah residents with mental illnesses received no treatment and 27% reported they did not know where to go for treatment.

The need for care is great. It’s urgent.


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Image Source : www.deseret.com

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