East Boston Neighborhood Health Center held an official opening for its new Behavioral Health Urgent Care Service for children, adolescents and adults on Thursday. The service had a soft opening just over a month ago and has already seen over a 100 people, providing same-day service for crisis evaluation and psychiatric medication consultation.
Dr. Ryan Boxill, a psychologist and the health center’s chief operating officer, said the urgent care service will, for many people, eliminate the typical months-long wait for psychological or psychiatric care in the region.
“That is key because it will keep people out of the hospital,” Boxill said. “Right now in this state, a great proportion of our inpatient psych beds remain closed just due to staffing. And so what happens is, ‘I’m from East Boston. I need inpatient care. I might end up in Worcester. What are the chances are that my family is going to come visit me if I'm in Worcester?’”
Boxill said keeping care local keeps family members involved, which means an effective future care plan can be fashioned in partnership with them. “And that in itself is worth its weight in gold,” he said.
The new behavioral health service has translation services available in several different languages, and five clinicians on staff who speak Spanish, said Nicolas Smietniansky, the Behavioral Health Urgent Care administrative director for EBNHC.
Smietniansky is bilingual himself, being from Argentina, and he says, so far, about 6 out 10 patients they’re seeing in the new service are Latino.
“It’s not only about the language, it’s also about the cultural difference,” said Smietniansky. “For example, when a patient shows up here, sometimes you have to understand that it’s not only the language that he doesn't understand, but he doesn’t understand how the medical system works in this country, which is different from their country.”
This isn't the only new addition to EBNHC this year. A revamped emergency department was opened this summer, and last January the center launched a patient advocate office in response to allegations of poor treatment at the facility.
Michael Mancusi, vice president and chief behavioral health officer, told GBH News that he didn’t think that the previous allegations were affecting care in the health center now.
“I don't think it's affecting us at all; I think that as a community, this health center is the anchor for our community,” Mancusi said “They come to us for everything. You know, we're the port in the storm ... And people just come forward all day, every day. Every clinic is full. And we're so very pleased to see that because this is the community we choose to serve every day.”
Boxill emphasized that the new Behavioral Health Urgent Care Service is opening at a crucial time.
“90% of every single MassHealth patient that is in a hospital bed right now has a behavioral health disorder, eight out of every 10 people in an emergency department have a behavioral health disorder,” Boxill said. “And here's the real kicker. When we look at people who came out of the hospital and ended up going back within 30 days, virtually every single one of them had a behavioral health diagnosis. Now, if that is not a call for action, I don't know what is.”