A new mental health walk-in clinic for children is set to open soon at Children’s Wisconsin.
The clinic, which is the first of its kind for children in the Milwaukee area, will serve as a tool for children experiencing urgent mental and behavioral health needs.
Amy Herbst, vice president of mental and behavioral health at Children’s Wisconsin, is hoping the clinic will open in February.
“It really came from families telling us that they needed a place to go for immediate mental health care,” Herbst said.
Herbst said children who were experiencing urgent mental health issues would be directed to an emergency room. Now, children will be directed to the clinic, named The Craig Yabuki Mental Health Walk-In Clinic.
The clinic is within the Clinics Building at the hospital, at the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa, 8700 W. Watertown Plank Road.
“The purpose of the clinic is to provide immediate, temporary support and is not a replacement for ongoing therapy or care by a mental health provider,” according to a news release from the hospital. “The Mental Health Crisis Response Team in the Children’s Wisconsin Emergency Department and Trauma Center (EDTC) will remain a resource for children in life-threatening and emergency situations.”
When the center opens, it’ll serve children and teens age 5-18, and provide services 7 days a week, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The clinic’s hours are from 3-11 p.m. for a reason, Herbst said. Most children they’ve seen needing mental health help come during after-school hours.
Herbst said the hospital came to the conclusion that they needed to create a clinic where families could walk in for immediate mental health care needs, which could include brief interventions, safety risk assessments and navigation for continued ongoing care that children might need.
Herbst hopes that children won’t be scared when it comes to seeking mental health help.
“We built this clinic for you,” Herbst said. “All you have to do is walk in the door and we will help you with whatever you need.”
Mental health problems in children are increasingly common
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 5 children was living with mental illness in Wisconsin. Since the pandemic began, visits to Children’s Wisconsin emergency department for mental behavioral health concerns have increased by 40%, Herbst said.
“We knew, before the pandemic, that our kids were in the midst of a mental health crisis,” Herbst said. “Then the pandemic only really exasperated that issue.”
“We were already really worried about how our kids were doing,” Herbst said. “Things have gotten more difficult during the pandemic and we couldn’t keep giving them what we’ve always given them; they needed something new and different from us.”
Children’s Wisconsin is still in the process of recruiting mental health providers and staff for the clinic.
The new clinic is named after Craig Yabuki, who died by suicide in 2017. He left behind a wife and three children.
His brother, Jeff Yabuki, gave $20 million to fund the addition of therapists to every Children’s primary care and urgent care office in southeastern Wisconsin.
The walk-in is also the latest step by Children’s Wisconsin to invest $150 million to significantly improve access to behavioral health care for children and adolescents.