After Patrick Schmitz became CEO of the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center in the summer of 2017, he spent a lot of time out in the community, listening.
Most of what he heard about the Center was positive. But if there was a common concern it had to do with the limited hours for intake assessments and access to services.
Those two areas became a primary focus for the Bert Nash team. And they rose to the challenge.
“As a Center, we’ve been working to remove the barriers that would limit accessibility to receiving services, and I couldn’t be prouder of the team,” Schmitz said. “We are creating a culture that looks for ways to say yes; we are no longer looking to say no. We’re not turning people away; we’re all about helping people.”
Open access hours used to be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays. Bert Nash has expanded its open access hours — when initial client intakes are done — to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday. By expanding intake hours, the Center also improved access to services.
“Now people have a broader window of time when they can come in and get started with the services they need,” Schmitz said. “And we can accommodate more people.”
The Center hired more admission therapists to make sure the expanded intake hours would be covered.
“This is really about accommodating our clients,” said Marsha Page-White, director of Adult Services. “Now, if you come in between 8 and 4, you get to see a therapist. That’s what it’s all about, getting people help when they need it.”
Page-White explained the reason access hours were expanded to 4 p.m., instead of 5, was because some insurance offices close at 5.
“So if someone came in at 5, we might not be able to get the person’s insurance authorized,” she said. “But, by keeping access hours open until 4, we can at least start the paperwork and get the client scheduled for an appointment.”
By offering same-day access to initiate services and to complete an intake assessment, Bert Nash Center is fulfilling its mission of responding to needs, restoring lives and building a healthy community.
“We know that when we identify that our children are in need of assistance, we want that assistance to take place as quick as possible,” said Child and Family Services Director Judith Rodman.
Another significant area of improvement for the Center has been the decrease in time from when someone does an initial intake and is scheduled for their first appointment to see an assigned therapist. In the past, it could take weeks before someone could come in for a first appointment. Now, it’s typically five to seven days, or less, for clients to come in for their post-intake appointment.
“When people make the decision to come in to get services, that can be pretty scary,” Page-White said. “And, if you came in and were told, we’ll see you in a month, the chances of a person coming back in are diminished because they can get frustrated because they have to wait so long. We’ve really worked hard to get services to people when they need those services.”
The Bert Nash Medical Services Team has also dramatically decreased the time from intake to first appointment.
“It used to be weeks or even months before someone could get in to see a psychiatrist,” said Dr. Nana Dadson, the Center’s chief medical officer. “Now people can get in the same day or the next day.”
The Med Team added more providers, as well as revamped the way they schedule psychiatric appointments. Using a scheduling program called Right Time Care, the Med Team will be able to accommodate more people and in a timely manner. Right Time Care is a method of scheduling appointments that is more patient-centered, flexible, and allows patients to be seen when they need to be seen.
“The goal is to get people the help they need, when they need it,” Dadson said.
Related to improving access to services, Bert Nash Center has worked to expand its relationships with third-party payers. It’s another way of being more available to the community.
In another move designed to better accommodate the needs of the community, Adult as well as Child and Family therapists at Bert Nash are also using a flex schedule, which allows clients to be seen after normal business hours.
“We are aware that before school, after school and evening appointments are desirable for many families, so in order to best serve our clients we have expanded our hours,” said Child and Family Services Director Rodman. “At Bert Nash, we want to ensure that our services meet the needs of children and families in Douglas County. As a mother myself, I always prefer scheduling my children’s appointments at times that have the minimal impact on my child’s education and on my employer.”
Bert Nash Center is now open from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. The flex schedule works well for both clients and therapists.
“The therapists develop a schedule that works for them, on an individual basis,” Adult Services Director Page-White said. “And it also means clients don’t have to get off work to come in for an appointment. Getting people the services they need when they need them, that’s what’s it’s all about.”