Letter: Committed to making access to care easier

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To the Editor:

As a Designated Agency for the State of Vermont and a Certified Center of Excellence, UCS strives to attain the value of easy access, which is simply defined as providing the right care, at the right time, in the right place with the right provider.

Access to mental health care services is a priority focus area of UCS' strategic planning. Individuals who are seeking mental health treatment are often waiting six to eight weeks for an intake appointment, followed by an extended wait time for clinical services. Emergency Departments across the State of Vermont have seen an increase in utilization rates by people experiencing a mental health crisis, both children and adults, including our very own Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. Often patients who are seen in the Emergency Department are discharged back into the community to receive community-based supports.

UCS is responding to the need for timely mental health services in Bennington County in the following ways:

UCS implemented universal access which is the first point of contact for all individuals who reach out to us looking for services. Universal access coordinators are knowledgeable of each of our service divisions and the programs within, ensuring that each caller is aligned with the appropriate clinical division. Our universal access coordinators collect basic information from callers and schedule an intake appointment.

In addition to hiring our new nurse practitioner, Rachel Darby, we recently revamped our process for psychiatric referrals. This new process development was in response to the feedback that we received from our stakeholders regarding wait times, call back times and limited availability of appointments. We are pleased to see an increase in scheduling capacity and timeliness of our response rate to our referring physicians.

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In partnership with SVMC, UCS has been awarded an innovation fund grant from OneCare Vermont, an accountable care Organization. The fund was developed with the goal of improving the quality, cost and experience of healthcare for Vermonters. The grant will fund a youth psychiatric urgent care center in Bennington to serve as an alternative to the emergency room for children and adolescents with an urgent mental or behavioral health issue. The partnership between UCS and SVMC will allow the opportunity to increase access to mental health services for families in our community. The center will open in the fall of 2019.

We are excited to share that we will be moving to a same-day access model for intake in the fall of 2019. Same day access will allow us to provide the care individuals need, when they need it. We will be sharing additional information with you, our community over the next several months.

UCS is committed to providing the best mental healthcare services to our community.

Amy S. Fela,

Bennington

The writer is director of operations for United Counseling Service.


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