Access to Mental Health Care

Improving access to mental is a keystone of our “going deep” strategy. During the past couple of years, we have developed several key partnerships that are now primed to create a network of supports by which we can address the gap that persists for low-income minority youth who need access to urgent psychiatric care. In alignment with the efforts of Evanston’s Cradle to Career Health, Wellness, & Safety Action Team, the Evanston Health Department, and the Mental Health Board, we seek to catalyze Evanston health and mental health providers to develop innovative strategies to close the mental health care gap. This community-b ased focus on mental health care creates an environment in which meaningful synergies can be realized.

To further deepen and strengthen the mental health care safety net, last year we established a partnership with Erie Family Health Center and launched the Access to Mental Health project. This project, funded with a Responsive Grant from the Evanston Community Foundation, will put the wheels of mental health justice into action for Evanston families by providing coordinated care for urgent psychiatric consultation.  

Moran Center clients, like many disconnected families in Evanston, are challenged by complex social and economic determinants of health, including poverty, homelessness, racism, and trauma. While our social workers provide quality counseling and support, some clients need immediate psychiatric services for stabilization, medication consultation, and monitoring. Barriers to accessing such services are well documented — long wait lists, lack of insurance, few psychiatrists who accept Medicaid, and poor follow-up.

As one example, a recent Moran Center client who was in acute mental health distress was hospitalized six times in five different psychiatric facilities in the last six months without any coordination of care, only to be discharged after a few days with no psychiatric follow-up for medication management and no continuity of care plan. Cuts in state funding have caused many mental health providers to reduce services or close programs, or limit the number of clients they can see, causing long wait times and a patchwork of care.

This is clearly a crisis on a national and state level that warrants the attention of policy makers, health care systems, and providers. But meanwhile, we are taking action on a local level by going deep to create linkages, partnerships, and pathways to help our clients get the help they need.