With a significant shortage of psychiatrists in the North Country, keeping a mental-health presence in medical offices is one way to expand services that are available, Gillette noted.
“Pediatricians work closely with psychiatrists on medication management. This (satellite clinics in pediatrician offices) seems to be a logical step in strengthening the connection (between health care and mental-health care).”
There has been no funding available for the satellite clinics, so the county is moving forward with the concept slowly. Therapists spend one day per week in each practice, but Gillette believes that that presence will continue to grow and expand to other practices.
“Historically, clinics have provided an opportunity for people to come to us, but I think you’ll see that change,” she said. “We should be able to get out to the community and meet people where they’re at. Our clinics may become smaller as we move out into the community.”
Using a strong connection with Behavioral Health Services North and the National Alliance on Mental Illness: Champlain Valley, the county has been able to take large strides in improving childhood access to mental-health services.
“Eight years ago, we had 150 kids on a waiting list, often waiting six months before getting in,” she said. “We knew that was not acceptable and had to rearrange how we do things to provide access.”
Today, the county serves more than 300 children at any given time, and they are seen on a timely basis.
“We have walk-in clinics Monday through Friday from 8:30 (a.m.) to 12 (noon) for assessment,” said Casey Caron, a licensed mental-health counselor who sees children at the Ampersand Avenue Clinic and at Mountain View Pediatrics.
Often, the parent of a child may visit the open clinic to discuss issues of concern with a specialist.