We were alarmed to learn Clackamas County Behavioral Health would rely on word-of-mouth to inform the community a mental health crisis center, Centerstone, opened in early March, so we whistled up the media. Hey Clack – you’re deserving of so much more scrutiny.
When Berenice Pureco of Oregon City couldn’t get an appointment at Clackamas County’s Beavercreek Clinic, staff referred her to a new alternative.
The county’s Sunnyside Health and Wellness Center opened in Clackamas in February, and Pureco, 32, stopped by for her first appointment last week.
“I just love the attention I’ve gotten here,” she said in Spanish as she prepared to get her blood drawn.
The center is a full-service medical clinic with a small laboratory. It offers adult, adolescent, child and prenatal care as well as family planning, immunizations, alcohol and drug treatment, and mental and emotional health services. A dental clinic is also expected to open in July. Staff speak Spanish and Russian and a Vietnamese speaker will also be hired soon.
Another new center, Centerstone Clinic, opened nearby in March and focuses on mental health and crisis services.
More than 200 new patients visited the Sunnyside clinic in its first six weeks in addition to patients transferring from elsewhere. Officials expect the clinic to eventually serve 8,000-10,000 patients. About 70 percent are at or below the federal poverty line.
The practice is divided up into two “pods.” Each pod is comprised of a physician, two or three nurse practitioners, two nurses, a behavior health consultant, a mental health counselor and seven certified medical assistants. A third pod is expected to open in another year and a half when a neighboring space becomes available.
This comprehensive setup focuses on the patient by providing a more holistic system of care, including mental health, said Dave Edwards, clinic director. The team-based setup also saves the clinic money because other team members are able to offer a wide range of services, freeing up the physician.
“Historically, health care has been centered around the physician,” Edwards said. “We’re trying to turn the model on its head and say it’s about the patient.”
The clinic has an annual budget of about $7 million, funded mostly through Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements. Reserves largely pay for the clinic in its early days, Edwards said, but it should become self-sustaining in about two to three years.
Uninsured patients are welcome, but the clinic caps them at 30 percent of the total number of patients. Patients at or below the poverty line are charged $20 for a medical appointment, $5 for lab work, and receive mental health care for free. Patients who make up to double the poverty line amount pay a discounted fee based on a sliding scale dependent on income and family size.
A short drive away is the county’s new Centerstone Clinic, which houses a variety of mental health and crisis services and accepts walk-in clients.
“It’s kind of like an Urgent Care for mental health issues,” said Martha Spiers, crisis program manager.
About 33 county employees work there, including those who staff the 24-hour crisis hotline. Three therapists aid walk-in clients, and a psychiatrist works two hours a day, five days a week. The site also houses three commitment investigators, who oversee involuntary hospitalizations. Two of the clinic’s employees are embedded with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.
The center emphasizes peer-supported services, such as Empowerment Initiatives and the David Romprey Oregon Warmline, which also operates a crisis phone line out of the space.
Large conference rooms, smaller lounges and four private treatment rooms provide space for group therapy sessions and one-on-one conversations.
The clinic doesn’t turn anybody away even if they don’t have health insurance, Spiers said. Everybody in crisis receives a private assessment, and those without insurance are charged a fee from a sliding scale based on income.
At least half of those seeking services are uninsured, said Jeffrey Anderson, the crisis program supervisor.