A new children’s mental health walk-in clinic is set to open soon at Children’s Wisconsin.
The clinic, which is the first of its kind for children in the Milwaukee area, will serve as a tool for children with urgent mental and behavioral health needs.
Amy Herbst, vice president of mental and behavioral health at Children’s Wisconsin, hopes the clinic will open in February.
“It really comes from the families who told us they needed a place to go for immediate mental health care,” Herbst said.
Herbst said children experiencing urgent mental health issues would be referred to an emergency room. From now on, children will be referred to the clinic, called the Craig Yabuki Mental Health Walk-in Clinic.
The clinic is located in the Hospital Clinics Building at the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa, 8700 W. Watertown Plank Road.
“The purpose of the clinic is to provide immediate and temporary support and does not replace ongoing therapy or care by a mental health provider,” according to a hospital press release. “The Mental Health Crisis Response Team at the Wisconsin Children’s Emergency Department and Trauma Center (EDTC) will remain a resource for children in emergency and life-threatening situations.”
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When the center opens, it will serve children and adolescents aged 5 to 18 and provide services 7 days a week, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Clinic hours are 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. for a reason, Herbst said. Most of the children they have seen needing mental health help come after school hours.
Herbst said the hospital came to the conclusion that it needed to create a clinic where families could come for immediate mental health care needs, which could include brief interventions, risk assessments for safety and navigation for the ongoing care children may need.
Herbst hopes kids won’t be scared when it comes to seeking mental health help.
“We built this clinic for you,” Herbst said. “All you have to do is walk through the door and we’ll help you with whatever you need.”
Mental health issues in children are on the rise
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 5 children lived with a mental illness in Wisconsin. Since the start of the pandemic, emergency room visits at Children’s Wisconsin for mental and behavioral health issues have increased by 40%, Herbst said.
“We knew before the pandemic that our children were in the midst of a mental health crisis,” Herbst said. “Then the pandemic only exacerbated this problem.”
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“We were already very worried about how our kids were doing,” Herbst said. “Things got harder during the pandemic and we couldn’t keep giving them what we always gave them; they needed something new and different from us.”
Children’s Wisconsin is still in the process of recruiting mental health care providers and staff for the clinic.
The new clinic is named after Craig Yabuki, who died by suicide in 2017. He left behind a wife and three children.
His brother, Jeff Yabuki, donated $20 million to fund the addition of therapists to every primary care and children’s urgent care office in southeastern Wisconsin.
The walk-in is also the latest step in Children’s Wisconsin investing $150 million to dramatically improve access to behavioral health care for children and adolescents.
Evan Casey can be reached at 414-403-4391 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecaseymedia.