OGDEN -- Weber Human Services is partnering with Midtown Community Health Center and making internal changes to provide one-stop service for clients.
Better service and better quality of life is driving the changes, said Kevin Eastman, Weber Human Services executive director.
"It's all about convenience for the client and respect for the client," said Jed Burton, WHS clinical director.
He said WHS will be consolidating reception services to reduce confusion and will be working to provide general physical care by partnering with Midtown to bring multiple services into one building.
Discussions about what to do began with feedback from clients, Burton said. Clients were getting lost and confused after being directed to various desks and floors to get to appointments, he said.
"In the past, clients have come in and had to check in at one location and be referred to the area where they receive their treatment. Then they have to check in with two or three staff members before they can even see their clinician," Burton said. "Some people were getting lost in the shuffle and not finding groups and meetings."
A new system where people check in only once has begun and will be fully implemented in a few weeks, Eastman said.
That idea of a one-stop shop led to more serious discussions about an idea that had been considered for a couple years -- a partnership with Midtown.
Patients with long-term or chronic mental illness live an average of 25 years less than those who aren't dealing with these health issues, Eastman said. He hopes that by providing physical and mental health care in one place, the lifespan and quality of life of the mentally ill can be increased.
"Most of these medical illnesses are preventable with adequate medical care, and access to medical care for those who have a serious mental illness is greatly impaired for various reasons," Burton said.
By having various kinds of care in one location, coordination will be better, he said. Small problems can be taken care of early on, and more serious illnesses can be diagnosed and the clients referred to specialists from there.
Clients have fewer places to go and fewer people to see. They can also get their prescriptions filled at WHS.
WHS is already the only mental health care facility with a pharmacy in Utah, Burton said. Now they will be the only one with a general care clinic, too.
Burton said the partnership with Midtown is the most exciting change at WHS in the last decade.
"We believe and we hope that it will translate into a longer life for the serious, persistently mentally ill and the quality of those years will be better," Eastman said. "Hopefully they won't suffer from physical problems that would cause more mental illness symptoms."
Midtown Executive Director Lisa Nichols said she thinks the integrated clinic with WHS is a great idea and she is excited to solidify plans over the coming months.
Eastman said the Midtown board has approved the use of a fund balance to construct a new medication room. The old medication room will be turned into a lab. He did not know what the cost might be.
The details about what level of care will be at the clinic are still being worked out, but he said the collaboration might begin as early as December or January.
"The focus is just how best to provide comprehensive care," Nichols said. "We wanted to provide one-stop shopping for people with these illnesses."
Weber Human Services provided care to 6,000 people from Weber and Morgan counties last year.