Prompt Care Clinic at The Royal offers new access to mental health services 

The Royal’s new Prompt Care Clinic offers quick access to specialized mental health services for a group of people who require a different level (or secondary level) of mental health service. 

For physicians and nurse practitioners in the Ottawa region who are supporting adult patients with moderate mental health symptoms, Prompt represents a direct line to mental health experts at The Royal. 

“We see Prompt as an access point for individuals for whom short-term services will meet their current need, equip them with skills to sustain their mental health needs, and coordinate care with their primary care provider, relieving some pressure on an already overburdened system,” says Shelley Hale, director of patient care services of The Royal’s Operational Stress Injury Clinic. 

The Prompt Care Clinic, which was developed in collaboration with The Ottawa Hospital, is staffed by a 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. Prescriptions will remain the domain of the client’s primary care provider.

Since clinic staff work together with a client’s family doctor or nurse practitioner, it’s expected the new model will also help build capacity in primary care. 

“Our team can talk to primary care providers as needed, to enhance mental health capacity and knowledge in their practice,” says Dr. Susan Farrell, vice president of patient care services and community mental health at The Royal.

The Prompt Care Clinic is an evolution of The Royal’s C-Prompt Clinic, which opened in the spring of 2020 to address urgent mental health needs when services were closed or scaled back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“One of our top priorities at The Royal is to improve access to mental health care,”

C-Prompt operated for 17 weeks, and while it successfully filled a gap in service related to the pandemic, a service evaluation showed that over half of the people referred to C-Prompt had never had the opportunity to receive specialized mental health care before, even though they required more support than their primary care provider could offer. In other words, C-Prompt served a unique group of people who may have otherwise fallen through the cracks.  

“We need something for people so their mental health doesn't worsen – they need something more significant. People shouldn’t be left to suffer without adequate support,” says Farrell.

“The overwhelmingly positive response C-Prompt received from clients, clinicians and the primary health community is what drove The Royal to start Prompt Care Clinic in this wave of the pandemic,” adds Hale. “Also, given the duration of the pandemic being longer than anyone anticipated, we see Prompt as being a responsible response to our community, knowing that the mental health of our community members is pushed beyond what anyone could have anticipated.”  

Prompt is not a crisis service, but it serves an equally important role in the mental health care system. “For those requiring urgent or crisis services, there are access points readily available. For those who don’t meet the threshold for urgent services, the options become a bit more complex,” explains Hale. 

“There's a great untapped need,” says Farrell.

Farrell says the type of support available at the Prompt Care Clinic is what many people need to get back on their feet, especially given what is known about early intervention and prevention.

Femme participant à une session en ligne avec un médecin

“For many mental health conditions, short-term services are sufficient to return them to an optimal level of wellness,” she says. “Some people don't need lifelong care; some people just need this model.”

Courtney lives with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression. She found support through C-Prompt in the early months of the pandemic. 

“The clinic connected me with someone I could check in with, someone who could offer advice, coping tools, and more than anything, space,” says Courtney. “Sometimes I would just vent about everything going on and I’d physically feel the tension leaving my body. Having someone just to listen and to hold space for me to just talk and get stuff off my chest was so important, especially during that challenging time.”

The new Prompt Care Clinic delivers virtual care via secure video calls.

The goal is eventually for the clinic to secure a community-based space, one that offers a combination of in-person and virtual care. 

Although short-term funding was received from the Champlain LHIN, funds are still needed in order to make the Prompt Care Clinic a permanent presence in the mental health community. 

“One of our top priorities at The Royal is to improve access to mental health care,” says Farrell. “The Prompt Care Clinic does just that.”

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