New clinic at St. Joe's Hospital seeks to fill gap in mental health services

St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Paul.

M Health Fairview is creating a new kind of clinic to get people struggling with mental illness the help they need faster.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many to struggle with mental illness as people face uncertainty in the world, according to Katie Jones, who struggled with mental health.

Dr. Rich Levine has seen the crisis unfold first hand. At the start, many suffering from mental stress put off getting help. Now, it’s only gotten worse.

"There is a thought that, ‘I’m not doing well. I’m not doing well, but I’ll hold on and then it gets the crisis mode’ and they call and try to get an appointment whether it’s a therapist or a medication provider and it’s two or three weeks and the crisis is now. So, that is, we are seeing a lot more of that."

Dr. Levine calls that the treatment gap. Too often now, people are waiting until the last minute and then go to a clinic or an emergency room. They’ll get an assessment and then the wait begins before they get any help.

Katie Jones found herself caught in that same gap two years ago.

"You’re already at the point where you feel like there are no options and you don’t know what to do," Jones said. "So, then you have to hold on and wait for another couple of weeks to just maybe get help from somebody is, it’s like, this frantic panic sets over you. Like, what am I supposed to do? How am I going to make it for three weeks?"

The new transition care service at M Health Fairview will close the gap in its existing mental health and addiction clinic at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul.

"There is crisis treatment just to help somebody get through a crisis situation," said Dr. Levine. "But then there is real treatment to help with the underlying diagnosis whether it’s depression, bipolar, chemical dependency issues. Those kind of things that needs ongoing treatment and that gap from the crisis care to the long-term care is that area we are trying to hit."

The goal is to help the patient get the right care at the right time.

"To have a point of contact where people can be seen the same day that they are reaching out for help instead of asking them to wait," said Jones. "That gives hope that there are options out there."

The new transition care service is now open at the hospital. If you are struggling with mental health issues, you should reach out to your doctor first. If there is a safety issue, then go to the emergency room. The emergency room at St. Joe’s, however, is no longer an option.

The National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Hotline is free and confidential. Find it at 800-273-8255.