(WXYZ) — An urgent care for mental health is coming to Oakland County, marking the first of its kind in metro Detroit.
The nonprofit Common Ground raised $1.2 million for the project. It launched virtually April 25 and a physical location is set to follow by the end of 2022.
“The service is really meant to meet a community gap,” Common Ground President and CEO Heather Rae said. "There is no place that offers behavioral health urgent care in our community.”
Common Ground has been offering mental health services for almost half a decade in Southeast Michigan, and the need today is greater than ever.
“This is a national crisis really,” Rae said. “There isn’t the staff, the clinicians, the programs to meet that demand right now, so there are waiting lists.”
The physical location is planned to open in southern Oakland County.
“People do go to emergency departments for behavioral health care when they feel like they have no other option and that’s who we’re trying to redirect to our urgent care,” Rae said. “It's right in the middle just like medical urgent cares where people are starting to experience symptoms of their depression or anxiety disorder.”
Rae says the urgent care will fill a void. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, as of 2021, more than 1.4 million adults in Michigan have a mental health condition. More than a quarter of them were unable to get the help they needed, and nearly half of the state’s population lives in an area lacking mental health professionals.
Many of those patients end up in local emergency rooms.
“A lot of these patients need places to go or need these long conversations or adjustments in medication that ERs aren’t equipped to really handle,” said Dr. Rahul Mehta, chair of Emergency Medicine at Trinity Health St. Joseph Mercy Oakland. "We chose a field that is different than what these patients truly need.”
Doctors like Mehta hope mental health urgent cares could lighten the load, providing more options for those in need of mental health care.
“The more bandwidth they have on that front line, they can probably hopefully prevent a lot of these patients deteriorating and getting worse,” Mehta said. "The more help we can use, the better."
Mental health care also tends to fall on law enforcement, who often encounter people in distress.
“How often are you and your deputies running into people who may be in need of mental health services?" 7 Action News reporter Brett Kast asked Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard.
"Oh, every day. Without question,” Bouchard responded. "One of the biggest challenges we think is in the community is there needs to be more support of the mental health service community. Anything that fails, that need ends up falling in our lap and obviously, we are not the best suited for that.”
Bouchard says an urgent care could be another tool used to solve this challenge, adding that before COVID-19, nearly half of the people in the Oakland County Jail required mental health care.
“I think it’s a positive step forward," Bouchard said of the urgent care. "I think we need more kinds of focus on mental health and support for those suffering a mental health acute moment.”
Once the physical urgent care is open, Common Ground anticipates 15,000 walk-ins per year. It's a small dent, but a big step forward in fighting a nationwide issue.
“Our behavioral health urgent care isn't going to solve all the problems in our county or in our state, but it's going to be an additional resource, an additional choice for people,” Rae said.
The Common Ground Behavioral Health Clinic will accept patients with or without insurance, capping out of pocket costs at $89.
The new service is accessible Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through the Common Ground website at behavioralhealthurgentcare.org.