GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A new kind of urgent care center is coming to town, offering a place created specifically for people experiencing mental health problems.

Starting this spring, people can come to Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services for its Psychiatric Urgent Care Center, which will be the first of its kind in the area.

“Today over 14,000 patients in the West Michigan area are going to local emergency departments for a primary behavioral health issue,” said Bob Nykamp, the Pine Rest vice president and chief operating officer.

The goal of the center is to expedite treatment and decrease costs.

“Typical medical urgent care or psychiatric EDs have limited access to behavioral health specialist," Nykamp said. "Those patients end up being the longest length of stay within those emergency departments.”

Pine Rest’s Psychiatric Urgent Care Center aims to change that.

“It is to provide quick access to psychiatric evaluation and triage," Nykamp said. "Our goal is for people to get in and out within a couple of hours.”

The new center comes after research involving area health system leaders, ERs, specialty hospitals, and ambulance services.

“The pilot project will be located in our Contact Center, which is our hospital admissions location in our Van Andel Center here the Cutlerville campus," Nykamp said. "We've dedicated seven to ten client therapy rooms, available for this new service."

Opening in March, initial plans are to serve adults ages 18 to 55.

“It’s our full intent that we will continue to expand this service to include children and adolescents as well as the geriatric population,” Nykamp said.

He said the idea for the urgent care center stems from feedback from area emergency departments.

"They have expressed to us that that's probably the worst place for somebody struggling with a behavioral health issue to go," Nykamp said. "Emergency departments are very busy, they’re very bright, they’re noisy when they’re busy, there's not a lot of privacy."

Nykamp said that environment exacerbates behavioral health issues.

"The setting of our urgent care center is really going to be much more defined in terms of space," Nykamp said. "It’s going to be a calming location, there's going to be the ability to change lighting and allow patients to have a de-stimulus."

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