CSO opens new clinic in Springfield to meet growing mental health needs created by pandemic

SPRINGFIELD – The COVID lockdown has left hundreds of children dealing with grief and isolation, thrown a wrench in the recovery process for people facing substance abuse and left many feeling terrible without knowing why.

Since pandemic lockdowns began in March 2020, Clinical & Support Options has seen a 20% increase in the number of people seeking a wide range of mental health services. As part of this expanded need, the company’s Springfield clinic moved to a building that is twice as large and easier to reach.

Staff at Clinical & Support Options, better known as CSO, held an open house Friday to show off its new $1 million full-service urgent care clinic and offices, now located in a renovated mill in a building 102-3 at Springfield Technology Park, 1 Federal St., said Karin Jeffers, president and CEO.

“Our goal is to be accessible to our community,” she said.

The nonprofit organization offers a wide variety of mental health services to about 19,000 people from 19 offices in four western Massachusetts counties and one in Gardner. The Springfield office alone now serves more than 2,500 people a year, 25 percent of whom are children, Jeffers said.

The move comes at a time when mental and behavioral health services are needed more than ever. A day before the open house, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts released a report saying the state is facing a wave of people struggling with mental health issues and calling for greater investment in the mental health workforce. with behavioral health.

In Springfield, Baystate Health, with partner Kindred Behavioral Health, has begun construction on a new $72 million, 150-bed psychiatric hospital that is scheduled to open around summer 2023 to meet growing needs. Currently, scores of patients, especially children and teenagers, end up waiting days and sometimes weeks in emergency rooms because no treatment facilities are available.

Not only are CSO staff facing an increase in people needing services, they are also seeing clients who have more extreme needs, especially for people in their early and mid-20s, Jeffers said.

“With younger people, we’ve seen them creep up to the point of crisis. Now we see people who are already in crisis when they come in,” she said.

One of the benefits of offering services to guests is that people don’t have to figure out what they really need before seeking services, Jeffers said.

“If you’re struggling right now, we’ll do that assessment,” she said. “Sometimes the barrier is that people don’t know what to ask for.”

CSO is designed so that adults and families can simply walk into the clinic at any time and receive immediate services. They are also welcome to call in for appointments, and clinicians also receive referrals from a variety of places, including school counselors, said Jenn Jakowski, clinic director.

“Since the pandemic, the need has increased everywhere, but we are seeing many more children and families,” she said. “The children faced isolation, loss and grief, loss of routine and sometimes family members.”

The new building has multiple small meeting rooms where clinicians can work with clients, but CSO staff will also do telehealth appointments and often visit clients in their homes, where people are more comfortable, Yakowski said.

People also face economic stressors, especially inflation, and the pandemic has been particularly difficult for people with substance abuse. Those in recovery also face many challenges, as some have lost work hours, been laid off and had their regular routines and systems that helped them stay sober changed or stopped, said Jeffrey Oldmixon, vice president of marketing and development. .

Among the advantages of the new building is that it is more accessible, has free parking, security and is on a bus line. It is also handicap accessible, he said.

The larger building also means the clinic now has a pharmacy right in the building, making it convenient if clients are prescribed medication as part of their treatment, he said.

The CSO also helps people with housing insecurity and helps those who may be at risk of eviction stay in their housing, he said.

Springfield currently employs about 50 people, but is now looking for clinicians and social workers, Oldmixon said.

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