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New Central Illinois Clinic Aims To Reduce ER Visits For Patients In Mental Health Crisis

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Memorial Behavioral Health, based in Springfield, is a an affiliate of Memorial Health System.

SPRINGFIELD – A central Illinois hospital system recently launched a new mental health crisis clinic, which aims to meet the growing need for services amidst the pandemic while reducing pressure on local hospital emergency departments.

Rates of anxiety and depression appear to be rising during the pandemic, according to federal data. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also found one in 10 people surveyed in June reported having seriously considered suicide in the past month. 

Diana Knaebe, president of Memorial Behavioral Health, says Memorial Health’s emergency rooms have seen an increase in mental health-related emergency room visits during the pandemic. 

But hospital data from the past few years show that about two thirds of people who present at the ER for behavioral health reasons end up not meeting criteria for inpatient admission, which suggests that those patients’ needs could be better met in an outpatient setting, Knaebe says.

Diverting those patients to a different setting is particularly important now, as the rise of COVID-19 across central Illinois has led to a reduction in available ER beds, she adds.

Diana Knaebe is president and system administrator for Memorial Behavioral Health. Memorial Behavioral Health

Knaebe likens the new mental health crisis clinic to an Express Care or urgent care specifically for mental health: for people with non-emergency mental health issues who would like immediate help.

Due to the higher hospital capacity in recent months, patients in mental health crisis — who are not experiencing a life-threatening or medical emergency — are likely to end up waiting a longer time before getting help, Knaebe says.

Memorial Health operates five hospitals across central Illinois — in Springfield, Jacksonville, Taylorville, Lincoln and Decatur. 

The new clinic in Springfield is open weekdays from 8:40 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for walk-ins or phone calls. The number is 217-525-1064.

Memorial Behavioral Health offers other services to the public, including an emotional support hotline at 217-588-5509. The hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Anyone who may be considering suicide or who is worried that someone else might be can call the national suicide prevention hotline around the clock at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and reach a trained professional. Memorial Behavioral Health is a member of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s network.

Other central Illinois hospital systems — including Carle and OSF HealthCare — also offer behavioral health services.

“For those in crisis, Carle works closely with trained staff in our Emergency Department as well as our many community partners and the community crisis line,” Carle spokesperson Kaleb Miller said in an email. 

“We are constantly evaluating the mental health needs of our community and exploring new, innovative ways to meet them.”

Christine Herman is a reporter at Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter: @CTHerman

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. We recommend checking the Coronavirus Information Center for the most recent numbers and guidance.

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Christine Herman

Christine Herman

Christine Herman is a Ph.D. chemist turned audio journalist who covers health for the Illinois Newsroom. Her reporting for Illinois Public Media/WILL has received awards from the Illinois Associated Press Broadcasters Association, the Public Media Journalists Association and has reached both regional and national audiences through WILL's health reporting partnership with Side Effects Public Media, NPR and Kaiser Health News. Christine started at WILL in 2015.

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