EBNHC Launches New Behavioral Health Urgent Care Service

Special to the Sun

East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC), the largest community-based primary care health system in Massachusetts, gathered with city, state and community leaders last week, to officially announce the opening of its new Behavioral Health Urgent Care Service (BHUCS). Part of the EBNHC’s integrated behavioral health program, the BHUCS provides same-day and urgent mental health services for children, adolescents, and adults, in East Boston and surrounding communities, transforming how community members — predominantly low-income immigrants — can access the high-quality behavioral health services they need and deserve.

“Timely access to high-quality behavioral health services is a common challenge across the Commonwealth, especially for vulnerable families. I’m proud to say that EBNHC’s Behavioral Health Urgent Care Service addresses this growing need head on,” said EBNHC President and CEO, Greg Wilmot. “Our industry must offer innovative ways to close long-standing gaps in care. This expansion of our behavioral health program is a monumental step in the right direction as we strive to achieve health equity for our patients and neighbors.”

The new service is innovative and different from other behavioral health urgent care options across the state as it is co-located with the state’s only community-based satellite emergency facility, operated by EBNHC. Additionally, the service is fully integrated within the health center and EBNHC’s larger behavioral health and recovery services program. This unparalleled care model allows patients in the community to be connected to a wide range of care services, seamlessly and immediately moving from the BHUCS to emergency medical care, primary care, additional behavioral health care, and other health and wellness programs available through the Center.

Addressing health equity gaps, like disparities in access to behavioral health care for Black and Latinx communities, has long been a focus for EBNHC which was recently recognized by the Department of Health and Human Service’s Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) as a 2023 National Quality Leader and one of the nation’s leading health centers in reducing health disparities.

To help put patients at ease, the new BHUCS suite features state-of-the-art behavioral health care design. A calming space, intentionally constructed to be safe and aesthetically pleasing for those struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, the BHUCS provides access to immediate crisis evaluation, next-step planning, and support for all patients ages six and above. The BHUCS currently welcomes walk-ins five days a week and will move to seven-day a week access in early 2024.

“We are in the midst of a behavioral health crisis that requires new ideas, more resources, and a strong investment to meet this demand,” said EBNHC Executive Vice President and COO, Ryan Boxill, PhD, MBA. “Since our soft-opening last month, we’ve already seen great demand for this service that will be especially vital for low-income and non-English speaking patients. Our highly trained, diverse, multi-disciplinary behavioral health team members are eager to welcome many first-time patients and are equipped to offer care in their native language.”

Thanks to earmarked state funding advocated for by Massachusetts State Rep. Adrian Madaro, EBNHC has hired more than 20 diverse new staff, experienced in providing behavioral health care to adults, adolescents, and youth.

“Behavioral health care providers are still seeing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, for many children was a two-year hiatus from achieving key developmental, academic and social milestones,” said Michael Mancusi, MSW, LICSW, EBNHC Vice President and Chief Behavioral Health Officer. “This has had a deleterious effect on the mental health of our young people, and we realized a better model was needed to address community behavioral health — one with an immediately accessible entry point and a range of care to match our patients’ needs. That is why we created the BHUCS — to provide an urgent response to an urgent health care crisis.”

Patients can now access the following services at the BHUCS, Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (weekend hours will be available in 2024):

• Same-day clinical triage, crisis evaluation, next step planning and support

• On-site medical evaluation and necessary laboratory tests

• Psychopharmacology evaluation and medication prescription

• Crisis response and stabilization

• Care navigation and care coordination

• Enrollment in EBNHC primary care, based on availability

EBNHC has also expanded mind/body offerings for patients, such as reiki, trauma-informed yoga, community peace circles and other community interventions to meet interest in non-traditional, indigenous, and culturally relevant healing methods.

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