During the pandemic, the team at the Vancouver Clinic noticed a sudden and drastic increase in rates of mental health decline, according to Dr. Michael Paull, medical director of Primary Care, Urgent Care and Continuous Improvement at the Vancouver Clinic.
To meet this growing need, the mental health department is continuing to expand its services.
The Vancouver Clinic Mental Health Center — a new centralized hub for mental health care at 2415 N.E. 134th St., Suite 301 in Salmon Creek — opens its doors on Monday.
“We’ve seen the need for mental health care in the community grow,” Paull said. “We felt that it was necessary for us to grow to meet that need and develop a dedicated space to serve these patients.”
Before, mental health care providers were spread out across the Vancouver Clinic’s locations. The new space is quieter — removed from the hustle and bustle of the other clinics.
“I think our patients were also really asking for a space that felt more therapeutic,” said Stacey Regalado, clinic manager. “(We were) very intentional with the way we designed this office and making sure our patients felt safe and comfortable coming in to see their psychiatrist to do therapy.”
The centralized Vancouver Clinic Mental Health Center has 11 provider rooms, which can each be shared by two clinicians. The new clinic also has one exam room. This room will be primarily used to administer an injection of a medication offered for patients with schizophrenia, according to Regalado.
The mental health department at Vancouver Clinic has 14 mental health care clinicians. When the department first opened in 2016, there was only one. Of the 14 current clinicians, seven are therapists and seven are psychiatrists. Of the seven psychiatrists, one is a geriatric psychiatrist, one is a perinatal psychiatrist and one is a pediatric psychiatrist.
The team at the Vancouver Clinic Mental Health Center has plans to hire an additional psychiatrist, pediatric psychologist and five new therapists in 2023 to continue to address the growing need for mental health care in the community. Last year, the department served approximately 2,800 patients, according to Vancouver Clinic data. Many of those patients were seen online via telehealth.
Telehealth services will continue with the opening of the new center, though the team is expecting to see more patients in person.
In 2022, the mental health department at the Vancouver Clinic started two different group therapy sessions hosted over Zoom. One is a “healthy coping skills” group using dialectical behavioral therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. The other is an “acceptance commitment therapy” group for those with depression. While currently only offered online, the department plans to offer in-person groups, as well, once the Vancouver Clinic Mental Health Center finishes a further expansion of the new center, which is currently underway.
“A strategic area of the organization (has been) to meet that mental health need,” Paull said. “We’ve grown significantly up to seven psychiatrists now, continuing to recruit to meet that demand. So I think the physical space is also something that represents that commitment to further grow and develop.”
Appointments with mental health care practitioners are currently only offered to Vancouver Clinic patients referred by their primary care providers.
For more information about mental health services offered through the Vancouver Clinic, visit tvc.org/services/mental-health.