Health PEI hopes walk-in mental health clinics will mean easier access

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Health PEI hopes walk-in mental health clinics will mean easier access

Health PEI is hoping three new mental health walk-in clinics in Prince County will improve access for patients and cut down overcrowding in the hospital emergency room.

The clinics are meant to assist Islanders dealing with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, a pilot project suggested by staff at Prince County Hospital in Summerside, P.E.I.

"They had advocated for this, and it was a wonderful idea. We have to start somewhere," Dr. Heather Keizer, Health P.E.I.'s chief of mental health and addictions, told CBC News: Compass's Kerry Campbell.

"What is really wonderful about this project is that it's taken no new staff, no new expense to Health PEI, it's been really a reallocation of our workload and our staff to meet this need really at the ground level for patients."

Mondays were busy

The idea took shape after a review of data last year from the hospital emergency room.

"What we noticed was that mental health patients were presenting very frequently on Mondays — it was a very heavy day," said Dr. Keizer.

"So really our staff in Summerside took the initiative, and initiated a walk-in clinic in Summerside on Mondays last July."

That has been expanded since with two more clinics at the collaborative care offices in O'Leary, P.E.I., on Wednesdays and at Westisle Composite High School in Elmsdale, P.E.I., Thursdays.

There is no need for an appointment, or a doctor's referral.

'Help with a crisis'

"Some people when they come in really need in-the-moment help with a crisis," Dr. Keizer said.

"And if they need more intensive care, they can be triaged to see, for instance, a psychiatrist if they need one or for longer-term therapy."

The department will be monitoring the pilot project to see if it helps reduce the load on the emergency room at Prince County Hospital. It will also look at whether patients using the clinics are more satisfied.

There's no plan as yet to expand the program to other parts of the Island. 

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