Prompt Care Clinic: One year later

The Royal’s Prompt Care Clinic opened its (virtual) doors a year ago this month. It’s a unique care model that has proven to be an effective way to serve individuals with mild-to-moderate mental health care needs. 

Woman having a virtual session from home

The Prompt Care Clinic offers timely access to a suite of specialized services. When the Prompt team receives a referral, first contact with the client is within 24 hours. 

“Prompt has been evaluated to be efficient and effective to meet client needs. It offers quick access to initial triage and then offers psychiatric assessment/consultations and short-term psychotherapy and has been demonstrated to improve mental health outcomes in a wide range of the population,” says Dr. Susan Farrell, vice president of patient care services and Community Mental Health at The Royal. “Prompt delivers a model of service that we haven't had in the region, and delivers it with partners.”

The Prompt Care Clinic is an evolution of the C-Prompt clinic, which opened in spring 2020 and operated for 17 weeks to directly address urgent mental health needs when services were scaled back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Partnerships have been key to its success. Developed in collaboration with The Ottawa Hospital, the Prompt Care Clinic, is staffed by an interdisciplinary care team that includes nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. Services include mental health assessments and treatment recommendations, short-term psychotherapy (up to four sessions per client), and medication recommendations. Education and capacity building for primary care practitioners is also provided.

Prompt clients tend to need a higher level of mental health support that can’t be immediately addressed by their family physician or nurse practitioner.  

“Prompt fits this middle part of the continuum of mental health,” describes Haley Ashe, manager of patient care services at the Prompt Care Clinic. “We see clients that aren't in acute illness where they need immediate intervention or an admission, but whose needs are more complex than their primary care provider can manage alone.

Prompt had over 1,900 referrals in 2021. What’s more, 65 percent of individuals sought mental health support for the first time. 

The Prompt model is especially effective for individuals who are dealing with depression and anxiety. 

“We're seeing a lot of 18 to 21-year-olds. It's so needed with the pandemic and everything else on top of it,” says Ashe. “Prompt gives people hope.”

While Prompt services remain virtual for the time being, there are plans to turn it into a “hybrid” clinic, with both virtual and in-person appointments.

Farrell stresses that the Prompt Care Clinic would not exist without strong partnerships in the community as well as donors and corporate sponsors. 

Funding is needed to meet growing demand, demand that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.   

“The Prompt Care Clinic came together based on partnerships, but it is still predominantly philanthropy-funded,” says Farrell. “We could have twice the size of Prompt and keep everybody busy.”

“If people were feeling the plight of mental health in the community, a donation to Prompt would be very appreciated, targeted, and would directly impact their fellow citizens in terms of improving their mental health.”

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The Prompt Care Clinic: “A ray of hope” 

Jessica, a 38-year-old mother of two children, a wife, and a teacher, was struggling with her mental health. "I was trying to balance homeschooling with my two kids, as well as putting on head-to-toe PPE to go into the school to teach, all while worrying about COVID-19." 

She had been living with depression and anxiety, but the pandemic had exasperated these feelings. "I was really struggling with ongoing mental health problems," says Jessica. "My family doctor was out of ideas for treatment, and I was in need of urgent help. I had tried to get ongoing treatment from a psychologist, but after more than one year on a waitlist, I had yet to receive care." Her family doctor had her on an antidepressant medication as well as a sleeping pill, but they weren't working for her, and in fact, they were making things worse. 

She heard about The Royal's Prompt Care Clinic through a friend and asked her family doctor for a referral. Jessica had been on a waitlist for over a year, so when she received a virtual appointment with The Royal's Dr. Susan Okigbo just three weeks after her referral, she was thrilled. 

"The doctor was so nice and genuine," says Jessica. "She suggested another medication for sleeping since the one I'm on now from my family doctor is interacting with my antidepressant. She told me that I've had a lot of life changes and ongoing stressors, so it's no wonder I'm going through a difficult time." 

For the first time in a long time, Jessica felt like there was hope. "I told the doctor how grateful I was to get to speak with her so quickly," says Jessica. "The Prompt Care Clinic offered a ray of hope for getting the immediate help I needed." 

Dr. Okigbo has recommended four treatment sessions through the Prompt Care Clinic at The Royal and told her that she would be happy to have another follow-up appointment with Jessica to discuss how she is doing. 

Click here to make a one-time donation towards the Prompt Care Clinic.