News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Wellness Van brings mental health treatment to Mill City

Contributing writer for The Canyon Weekly

Santiam Canyon residents now have easier access to mental health and substance abuse treatment thanks to the weekly arrival of the Wellness Van at the Santiam Medical Clinic.

“Nationwide, there is critical shortage of providers for mental health and substance use treatment,” said Kim Klotz, with Santiam Hospital and Clinics, with which the Mill City clinic is affiliated. “In June, Stayton local treatment center Crossing Bridges closed. This highlighted the need for better local access as many providers in the area are at full capacity. At Santiam Hospital, our behavioral health clinicians are working hard to address this gap in access, but they are limited in capacity as well.”

Conversations with Marion County Health and Human Services led to a partnership with SH’s Integrated Health and Outreach Department to bring better mental health access to Santiam Canyon communities, Klotz said.

“Marion County responded immediately to our request for mental health support in the Canyon,” said Melissa Baurer, IHOD director. “They have made this program attainable for our community members, eliminating transportation and insurance barriers. We appreciate the opportunity to continue to build upon this new model of service, providing services for our members where they are at.”

MCHHS’s Wellness Van was onsite July 20 and will be at the clinic every Wednesday, adjusting the schedule and availability as needed. 

The van is staffed by an MCHHS counselor/therapist and/or a certified recovery mentor or peer. 

According MCHHS, a computer is onboard to help facilitate telehealth appointments, and access to treatment rooms in the clinic will be available to provide some in-person services. 

SMC’s community health worker, Josie Crocker, schedules appointments as well as helps clients to get the care they need.

“The program started with only a few appointment spots available, and we have been able to increase that already,” Klotz said. “Each week the appointments spots have been full, but we have been able to accommodate some at the last minute from our waitlist.”

The pilot program is not limited to Santiam Medical Clinic patients, Klotz added. 

“MCHHS has been wonderful in addressing the true need by making their services available to all persons willing to seek treatment,” she said. “Community members are not limited by whether or not they have insurance, what type of insurance nor what side of the county line that they reside on.”

Klotz encourages people who need mental health or substance use assistance to make an appointment for an initial appointment with Marion County representatives. 

“Through the first appointment the specific type of help will be determined and the member will be connected to the correct provider type,” she said. 

“Some areas of help have been for depression, anxiety, anger management, PTSD, alcoholism, drug use or history of use.”

According to Klotz, lack of easy access to programs that address these issues can quickly become a barrier for people not to seek treatment. 

“We try to provide alternative resources as people wait for an appointment spot to become available with a matching/appropriate provider for their need such as support groups, community groups and using their healthcare provider/behavioral health clinician,” she said. 

“For some, assisting them with other resource needs has a side benefit of early access to programs that can also assist with mental health or substance use needs.”

Administrator Ryan Matthews, administrator of the county’s Health and Human Services, is excited about the partnership with the hospital and its new pilot program.

“We are working to break down barriers for this community and through this collaboration we are able to provide services to individuals that may otherwise not have their needs met,” Matthews said. 

“We hope to see the continued expansion of resources to support this community and will be working with our health care partners to ensure positive outcomes.”

County Commissioner Danielle Bethell hopes the additional mental health treatment option will help engage and connect individuals with the resources and support that they need to thrive.

“Folks in the Canyon especially have had to push through so much these past years, showing an incredible sense of strength, community and resiliency,” she said. “We want to help people know it’s okay to struggle in that, that it’s okay to not be okay and find support.”

Feedback so far has been positive, Klotz said. 

“Many are thankful that the service is located in the area,” she said. “If they had to go to Salem for treatment in the past, then this a significant positive change. The community has been welcoming.

“This is a pilot program,” Klotz added. “We would like to reassess and change plans according to the ongoing reception of the program.”

To make an appointment, call Josie Crocker at the Santiam Medical Clinic, 541-650-8304.

For more information, contact the Board of Commissioners Office at 503-588-5212 or email [email protected].

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