Blue Mountain Health Cooperative helps bridge the mental health care gap
April 29, 2021
WALLA WALLA-When Walla Walla's Alayna Brinton, LICSW, started Anchor Point Counseling in 2016, she quickly realized that the need for behavioral health services was greater than her single-provider practice could handle.
She brought on additional providers but said that her practice was still receiving more referrals than it could handle. Even with more providers on staff, Brinton said that she still felt that something was missing and in 2020, took the first steps to opening the Blue Mountain Health Cooperative.
"In January of 2020, I started really solidifying what the vision was," she said. "We got slammed with all of these referrals, and no matter how many staff were on staff here at Anchor Point, it as apparent to me that there needs to be this bottom up approach to care, where we were building infrastructure down, where we had the ability to have bachelors and masters level people caring for people, and that there was access to free care for people who were underinsured or uninsured."
The non-profit Blue Mountain Health Cooperative not only addresses the need for affordable care, but it provides a clinical setting for behavioral health students to get real-life practice and provide supervised care while finishing out masters and bachelors degrees.
"Clinical placements were being cut," Brinton said. "Once COVID-19 hit, that even further limited the student's ability to find a placement. I just spoke with Deisy Haid, from Walla Walla University, and she said that they have had ten disruptions this last year, meaning that they had people placed for clinicals but they were unable to finish, which she said never happens."
Brinton expressed that creating a place for students to go through their clinicals was very important to her.
"If providers aren't coming into the field with practice and experience, how can they provide the care people need?" Brinton said.
Brinton, worked alongside Deisy Haid, LICSW, and Melissa Adams, LICSW, and the health cooperative was brought to life. The first group of students began training in January 2021, and the clinic's doors officially opened in February of this year.
The non-profit clinic offers affordable, quality mental and behavioral health services for community members 13 years of age and older, whether they are uninsured or underinsured. The clinic offers walk-in mental health appointments from 10 a.m- 6 p.m on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and 9 a.m- 4 p.m. on Thursdays.
The clinic also offers access to behavioral health navigators, who act similarly to case managers.
"If someone does not want direct counseling services with our providers, they can still come in and meet with a behavioral health navigator, and have the navigator work to connect them to care within our community," Brinton said. Navigators are able to help connect patients with providers in the area, offer follow ups, and help connect people to local resources for social determinants of health, like food, housing, clothing and more. These services are also available to people under the age of 13, but parental involvement is required.
The cooperative is excited to welcome Donna Braswell, NP, of Idaho later this year. Braswell will be able to prescribe medication as necessary.
Brinton said that the clinic is funded solely by grants and donations. Donations at the time of care are welcome, but not expected. To learn more about the clinic, visit their website at https://www.bluemountainhealthcooperative.org. A donation link is available on the website for secure donations.