Reflections on two years and more than 5,500 visitors to Battle Creek's 24/7 psychiatric urgent care center.
Summit Pointe's First Step Psychiatric Urgent CareThis article is part of MI Mental Health, a new series highlighting the opportunities that Michigan's children, teens, and adults of all ages have to find the mental health help they need, when and where they need it. It is made possible with funding from Summit Pointe, the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan, and its community mental health (CMH) agency members.
In a mental health crisis, every second counts. When Calhoun County’s Community Mental Health (CMH) provider Summit Pointe
completed a gap analysis, it revealed that people reaching out for help faced long wait times, particularly after hours.
Under that old system, callers had to leave their information with a staffer, hang up, and wait for a clinician to call back. After that, they had to wait for their first appointment with an intake worker and again for a follow-up visit. If they needed medication, it could take months. Summit Pointe CEO Jeannie Goodrich knew something had to change.
Jeannie Goodrich, CEO Summit Pointe
“That was not good quality care,” says
Goodrich. “We provided access, but it wasn’t full access.”
On March 22, 2021, Summit Pointe opened First Step Psychiatric Urgent Care Center
, a program providing services when people need them most. The 24/7 facility treats patients of all ages, irrespective of insurance.
“Since we’ve opened, we’ve had 5,580 people walk through our door,” says Goodrich, clarifying that the number includes repeat visits. “That speaks very loudly to the trust that people are putting in this service.”
The roots of First Step stretch back to that gap analysis that revealed the obstacles Summit Pointe patients faced when they attempted to get mental health care, not only those long wait times but also limited staffing and having to navigate a system that could be confusing during a crisis.
Working with a consultant and partners at Bronson Battle Creek Hospital
, Goodrich examined different models of care and concluded that a drop-in, 24-hour crisis center would streamline the process. The project was funded in part by a $4 million Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC)
grant, disbursed over two years.
“We chose to call it an urgent care center because it’s more outward-facing. The general public understands what an urgent care center is,” Goodrich says. “We don’t ask you if you're in crisis. We don’t ask you to figure out what you need. You just come in, you meet with us, and we’ll figure out together what the best path forward is.”
First Step Director of Access Services Lakeyta Patterson says, “There is no such thing as a typical day.”
Lakeyta Patterson, First Step director of access services
Patients are greeted by staff who make sure they’re triaged appropriately — to clinicians, peer support specialists, recovery coaches, nurses, medical assistants, or emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Health professionals employ assessment tools to determine the appropriate level of care, and every treatment plan is tailored to the individual. First Step also follows up after a patient visits the Center to ensure they are getting the right care.
“I think every day is a lesson,” Patterson says. “We learn in every interaction with every customer that we see, every situation and circumstance.”
One such circumstance was figuring out how to operate in the midst of a pandemic. First Step committed to providing face-to-face treatment as well as helping their clientele navigate technological challenges when they had telehealth appointments with providers. It was undeniably challenging, Patterson emphasizes.
“But we were there,” she says. “We were operating as if nothing had happened. Although [the pandemic] was an obvious barrier, it really showed the effort and the dedication that we put into First Step and our customers.”
The door is always open at First Step.
That dedication has paid off. Patterson says she has seen a number of patients benefit from First Step — from people who’ve successfully managed substance use disorders to those who’ve gone from needing a high level of case management to controlling their own condition with medications.
“We have a host of other services within Summit Pointe. The urgent care itself is kind of the hub,” Patterson says. “Although we are meeting with people and seeing them in the moment — treating them right then — we are also looking at how can we help them long-term.”
First Step does not focus only on individual patients. Patterson says that the staff is continuously evolving its services to meet the needs of the community as a whole. For example, by working with law enforcement, they have found the most effective ways to coordinate and increase services for people during and after incarceration in an effort to reduce recidivism.
“We listen to our community partners,” Goodrich says. “We keep re-looking at our processes and our tools and listening to feedback and redesigning.”
On September 30 of last year, Summit Pointe was awarded an additional $1 million in annual CCBHC funding to continue and expand services over the next four years. Looking forward, Goodrich and Patterson foresee increased community collaboration with Grace Health
, Bronson’s outpatient services, law enforcement, courts, and school systems.
“I think we’re already hitting that mark, but I think there’s a ton of work to do in the community,” Patterson says. “We’re not just bringing people in the doors of First Step, we’re getting out there [into the community] and hitting the ground running.”
Brooke Marshall is a freelance writer and the author of Lucky: An African Student, an American Dream, and a Long Bike Ride. You can contact her at email@example.com.
Photos by John Grap.
Jeannie Goodrich photo courtesy Summit Pointe.
The MI Mental Health series highlights the opportunities that Michigan's children, teens and adults of all ages have to find the mental health help they need, when and where they need it. It is made possible with funding from the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan, Center for Health and Research Transformation, Genesee Health System, Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, North Country CMH, Northern Lakes CMH Authority, OnPoint, Sanilac County CMH, St. Clair County CMH, Summit Pointe, and Washtenaw County CMH.