SPRINGFIELD – COVID lockdowns left hundreds of children dealing with grief and isolation, threw a wrench into the recovery process for people facing substance abuse and left many feeling terrible without knowing why.
Since the pandemic lockdowns began in March 2020, Clinical & Support Options has seen a 20% increase in the number of people who are seeking a wide range of mental health services. As part of that expanded need, the company’s Springfield clinic has moved to a building that is twice the size and easier to reach.
Staff for 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 Building 102-3 in the 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 CSO offers a wide variety of mental services to about 19,000 people from 19 offices in the four counties of Western Massachusetts and one in Gardner. The Springfield office alone now serves more than 2,500 people a year with 25% being children, Jeffers said.
The move comes at a time when mental and behavioral health services are needed more than ever. The day before the open house the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation published a report saying the state faces a surge of people grappling with mental health struggles and called for a bigger investment in the behavioral health workforce.
In Springfield, Baystate Health with partner Kindred Behavioral Health began constructing a new $72 million, 150-bed psychiatric hospital that is slated to be open around the summer of 2023 to meet the growing need. Currently, multiple patients, particularly children and teens, end up waiting days and sometimes weeks in emergency rooms because there are no available treatment facilities.
Not only are staff at CSO facing an increase in people who need services, they also are seeing clients who have more extreme needs, especially for people in their early and mid 20s, Jeffers said.
“With younger people we used to see them creep up at the point of crisis. Now we are seeing people already at the point of crisis when they come in,” she said.
One of the benefits of offering walk-in services is people don’t have to figure out what they really need before seeking out services, Jeffers said.
“If you are struggling right now we will do that assessment,” she said. “Sometimes the barrier is people don’t know what to ask for.”
CSO is designed so adults and families can simply walk into the clinic any time and receive immediate services. They are also welcome to call for appointments and clinicians also receive referrals from a variety of different places, including school counselors, said Jen Jakowski, the clinic director.
“Since the pandemic, the need has increased across the board, but we are seeing a lot more children and families,” she said. “Children faced isolation and loss and grievance, the loss of their routines and sometimes family members.”
There are multiple small meeting rooms where clinicians can work with clients in the new building, but CSO employees will also do telehealth appointments and frequently visit clients in their homes, where people are more comfortable, Jakowski said.
People are also facing economic stressors, especially with inflation, and the pandemic has been especially difficult for people with substance abuse. People in recovery are facing a lot of challenges as well because some lost work hours, were laid off and their regular routines and systems that helped them stay sober were changed or stopped, said Geoffrey Oldmixon, vice president of marketing and development.
Among the benefits of the new building is 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 that 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.
CSO also assists people with housing insecurity and helps those who may be in danger of being evicted to remain in their residence, he said.
The Springfield location currently employs about 50 people but is now searching for clinicians and social workers, Oldmixon said.