Children’s Wisconsin is recruiting mental health providers and staff needed to open a new walk-in clinic on its Wauwatosa campus for children with urgent behavioral needs.
The pediatric health system has hired about 75% of the staff – including licensed therapists, social workers and clinic assistants – for the clinic, which will occupy repurposed space on the second floor of Children’s Clinics Building on the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center campus, said Amy Herbst, vice president of mental and behavioral health.
The clinic, named the Craig Yabuki Mental Health Walk-In Clinic in honor of a $20 million donation from former Fiserv chief executive officer Jeffrey Yabuki’s family foundation to the health system (Craig Yabuki was Jeffery Yabuki’s brother who experienced undiagnosed depression during childhood and in 2017 died by suicide), is expected to open in early 2022. The exact date will be based on when staff are hired and trained.
It’s one component of Children’s $150 million, multi-year commitment to invest in programs that address the mental and behavioral health crisis facing Wisconsin youth.
Currently, patients often seek urgent mental health care through Children’s emergency department and trauma center. Since 2020, visits to the Children’s ED for mental and behavioral health concerns have increased by 40%. Some of those patients need emergency, life-saving treatment, but others seek care in the ED because it’s the only option available to them, Herbst said.
The new walk-in clinic is designed to provide immediate, temporary support, while the Mental Health Crisis Response Team in the ED and trauma center will continue to be available for children in life-threatening and emergency situations.
“We’re hoping over time families will be able to have a choice between coming to the emergency department with the Crisis Response Team and coming to the walk-in clinic, and they will access the services they really need,” Herbst said.
It will fill a gap for children who, for example, have a scheduled appointment with a therapist or psychologist that is a few weeks out but need to see a specialist sooner than that.
“There’s always discussion among providers and we hear it from families that ‘my child is not having an emergency, but I cannot wait until we see a therapist or psychologist or psychiatrist. We can’t wait on a waitlist to be seen next,’” Herbst said.
The new walk-in clinic will serve children and teens ages 5 to 18 and provide services seven days a week from 3 to 11 p.m. Providers will evaluate and determine any immediate safety concerns and staff will communicate with a child’s existing doctors and therapists to continue providing resources if needed after the visit.
The hours of the walk-in clinic (3-11 p.m.) were chosen based on when families most often seek emergency department mental health care, Herbst said.
Amid a widespread mental health worker shortage, Herbst said the health system’s recruitment efforts are focused on offering flexibility to providers, including the option of full- or part-time and working weekends or weekdays.
“We are looking to hire the right people for these positions, so we’re being really creative and flexible, especially now with such a shortage of mental health providers across the board,” she said.