Los Angeles Times Profiles 24-Hour Walk-In Mental Health Clinic in Long Beach
The Los Angels Times today profiles the Mental Health Urgent Care Center in Long Beach, a 24-hour walk-in clinic that treats individuals with schizophrenia, depression, drug addiction and other mental health disorders. The clinic, which opened in May and is funded by the county, "may be the first of its kind in the nation" to offer medication, counseling or referral for specialized care for individuals with mental illness who might otherwise become homeless, incarcerated or hospitalized because of lack of access to routine mental health care. The clinic staff includes a psychiatrist and several psychiatric nurses, and treatment is voluntary, according to Ed Bienkowski, a clinical psychologist and administrator at the center. The clinic gives the mentally ill options for immediate treatment other than crowded emergency rooms. Bienkowski said studies have shown that 75% to 90% of people who seek care in emergency rooms for mental illness are hospitalized "because there are no other alternatives," the Times reports. The Long Beach clinic has referred only 6% of the approximately 500 clients seen at the center for hospitalization. Bienkowski added, "Hospitalization is usually our last option. This (center) should save money in hospital beds, psychiatric emergency room care and, indirectly, save the policy money." Los Angeles County officials believe the clinic "holds particular promise" and plan to use the center as a pilot project that could be expanded if it is successful (Roan, Los Angeles Times, 11/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.