Golisano announces region’s first mental health urgent care

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Golisano Children’s Hospital is announcing a new kind of mental health care for children and teens. It’s called a mental health urgent care clinic, made possible by $1 million in support from Brighter Days Foundation.

Tuesday marked the official groundbreaking for the unit, on 300 Crittenden Blvd. The urgent care will be an expansion of the first floor, and completion is expected by early 2024.

This will be the area’s first ever walk-in mental health clinic, for children and teens. Health leaders say the demand for mental health support has been increasing over time, even before the pandemic.

ICU Nurse Lauren Opladen’s mental health journey helped inspire the new clinic. She opened up about her experiences at Tuesday’s groundbreaking.

“I had gone through multiple life adversities when I was younger that caught up with me after surgeries, being immobile from my usual getaways. When I was 17 I noticed I didn’t enjoy what I used to, I didn’t want to get up and go to school,” she said.

She said her experience in a psychiatric emergency program was scary, and she felt like there was a stigma of being “locked up.”

“And to go through what I went through, the process of sleeping on a couch for four days before I even got a bed in the impatient unit, to realize that others have to go through that — I knew there had to be a change then and there,” she said.

The groundbreaking symbolizes a new kind of mental health care for the region; one she said will be more accessible, and less intimidating.

Once open, services will be offered seven days a week, from noon to 8 p.m.

Opladen has been helping with the project since she was in high school, hosting a fundraiser for the impatient unit at strong.

Dr. Michael Scharf said the current services are built on the idea of a “worst case scenario.” But in today’s world, the goal is to provide care before it gets to that point.

“There will be licensed mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, social workers, creative arts therapists. It’s really important to us to have a diversity of staff,” said Scharf.

The demand is certainly there, he said.

“It keeps changing, unfortunately in the negative direction, meaning more and more need, more and more challenges,” he said. “Even before the pandemic, we saw over a 30% percent increase, in the number of children presenting to emergency rooms in our region for mental health concerns. And since the pandemic, we’ve seen the demand for emergency services, crisis services go up dramatically.”

Scharf said they get over 100 requests for care a week, for children’s mental health. They plan on hiring 18 full time employees for this clinic. Construction should be complete by early 2024.          

Health leaders said they’ll also be partnering with local school districts for mental health services. This includes doubling the number of school-based mental health clinics in Rochester City Schools, and telemedicine in every school in the RCSD.