For people with mental health or addiction treatment needs, the days and weeks between when they first seek care and when openings are available in needed treatment programs can be a very challenging and vulnerable time.
Too often, the need for mental health and addiction care is higher than the number of available appointments or openings in treatment programs, and patients may need to wait several days or weeks for additional care. For example, a patient who arrives at the emergency department with depression and thoughts of suicide may need to wait three or four days for follow-up care after their first visit. Another patient may be discharged from the hospital with a new medication and an appointment with a psychiatrist that’s two weeks out.
During that wait, they’re at increased risk of being hospitalized, stopping their medication or missing follow-up visits. A new M Health Fairview Transition Care Services program opening in January 2021 will bridge these gaps for patients and ensure they continue to receive the support they need as they wait for their care program to begin.
“It’s common for patients who are hospitalized or who seek initial treatment to have to wait several days for their next appointment,” said Emergency Medicine Physician and Psychiatrist Richard Levine, MD. “During that time, they may lose their motivation for treatment. Or they may start to feel better and think they don’t need additional care.”
Mental health patients who are lost during their wait are at greater risk of a crisis, Levine said. They’re more likely to end up in the emergency room again and more likely to face hospitalization. The new Transitional Care Services program ensures patients are supported until their full treatment begins.
When it opens, the Transition Care Services program, located within the existing Mental Health and Addiction Clinic at M Health Fairview St. Joseph's Campus in St. Paul will provide same-day access to mental health and addiction care for patients awaiting entry to an M Health Fairview program. Patients will be able to receive in-person or virtual care from highly trained mental health care providers who are able to prescribe needed medications, as well as crisis therapists and peer support staff. The program provides a variety of services, including medication support, alcohol and drug abuse support from licensed therapists, and emergency crisis therapy. Transition Care Services also includes the Mobile SUDS program, a first-of-its-kind mobile support program that brings alcohol and drug addiction care to people out in the community.
“It is well recognized that a period of significant vulnerability for people in need of mental health and addiction care occurs while waiting for connection to needed levels of care,” said Beth Heinz, M Health Fairview’s Behavioral Health Service Line executive. “The new Transition Care Services program on the St. Joe’s campus is set up to directly target this need.”
Patients needing Transition Care Services likely will be referred to the program by an emergency department or hospital provider. They may receive a referral to the program after a consultation at our diagnostic assessment center, a service that evaluates each person’s needs and connects them needed support. Transition Care Services staff will help patients manage their treatment and appointment needs and ensure follow-up happens at the right time to meet each patient’s needs.
“This isn’t a replacement for any one kind of care, but it’s an important transition from initial treatment to longer-term care,” Levine said. “It helps patients maintain stability until they can reach the next level of treatment, and it helps them avoid crisis.”