Responding to gap in care, The Centers offers two urgent cares for mental health needs

With demand rising for help with depression, anger, suicidal urges, and many other behavioral problems, The Centers fills a gap in services with two urgent cares focused on mental health.
The Center’s east side behavioral health urgent care is located at 12201 Euclid Ave. (Photo by Grant Segall)

A woman ran out of her psychiatric medicines. Her psychiatrist wouldn’t renew them until re-evaluating her and couldn’t give her an appointment for a month. So she tried something new: Cuyahoga County’s first behavioral health urgent care program. There staffers checked her out, counseled her, and gave her enough meds until that appointment.

After a few bad breaks, a man felt depressed and called the suicide hotline, 988. But he didn’t seem desperate enough for the emergency room, where he’d have to wait behind patients in worse shape. So the hotline referred him to the new urgent care program, whose staff gave him medications, some tips about coping, and an appointment for further treatment.

A married couple new to Cleveland ran out of their psych meds. Their Arizona doctor and insurance plan wouldn’t help them here. So the urgent care program gave them refills and helped them arrange local follow-ups.

The program is part of The Centers, a nonprofit medical, educational, vocational, and social service organization formed by gradual mergers of many other organizations. The program opened early this year at the former sites of two of those organizations: the old West Side Ecumenical Ministry in Gordon Square and the Free Clinic in University Circle. Like all The Centers’ healthcare services, the program charges clients on a sliding scale based on income, with fees going down to zero.

Eric Morse, The Centers’ president and chief executive officer, said that his staff began considering the program a couple years ago to help treat addictions, suicidal urges, and many other behavioral problems. The idea was to fill the same gap for mental health that urgent care already filled for physical health needs at The Centers and elsewhere: to help people faster than most emergency rooms and medical clinics could.

Then came the pandemic, isolating and scaring people. Behavioral problems multiplied. Forty-one percent of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in 2021, nearly four times more than in 2019.

What’s more, the pandemic has driven many workers to quit healthcare. So more people want care from fewer helpers.

Morse said most people with behavioral problems wait a month or two longer than advisable to seek help. Then they typically have to wait another month for a non-urgent appointment at The Centers or up to six months elsewhere.

Behavioral problems used to be kept secret. Now they’re all over talk shows and social media. But Morse said they’re still poorly understood: “We know less about the brain than the universe.” He also said that many primary caregivers still stigmatize and downplay them.

Jeffrey Allen, director of The Centers’ behavioral health urgent care program, says the program offers hope to clients. (Photo by Grant Segall)

Who needs behavioral urgent care? It’s recommended for adults or children having severe or prolonged anger, sadness, mood swings, confusion, behavioral changes, violent urges, overuse of alcohol or drugs, or other serious symptoms that they shouldn’t have to endure much longer without help.

Morse said that the emergency room is best for people who want to be hospitalized or are at imminent risk of harming themselves or others. If people aren’t sure what level of care to seek, he welcomes them for urgent care. “We’d rather they walk through our door than nothing,” he said.

Both program’s sites have pharmacies and many other kinds of behavioral and physical care, so patients can transfer quickly or arrange follow-ups there. The staff also helps them find care elsewhere as needed.

The growing program treated 138 adults and children last month. Clients have waited anywhere from five minutes to two hours, much shorter than they’d usually wait for other levels of care. Most clients walk in, but some make appointments.

The program got $1 million for each of its first two years from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It also got $500,000 from the Cuyahoga County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services.

The urgent care sites are 12201 Euclid Ave. and 5209 Detroit Ave. Both can be reached through 216-325-9355 (WELL). They’re open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Jeffrey Allen, director of the urgent care program, hopes that it gives clients a comfortable welcome to the range of behavioral treatments. “It expands their support system,” he said. “It’s getting them validation. It instills hope.”

48x your impact! The Land needs monthly members to keep going strong. Give today and triple your donation.

P.S. Did you like this story? Take our reader survey!

Get your new monthly donation matched 24x!

Your support is crucial as we continue to bridge gaps in reporting in Cleveland neighborhoods in 2023.

Get your new monthly donation matched 24x





Follow us on Facebook

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top