Brand New Inova Cares Clinic Offers Mental Health Care for the Uninsured | News

Inova Health Systems has opened its first mental health clinic for the uninsured and underinsured, launching the new program on the Cornwall campus in Leesburg.

It is the latest addition to the Inova Cares Regional Hospital System clinics, serving people who are uninsured, underinsured, or have Virginia Medicaid coverage. The new Inova Cares Clinic for Behavioral Health adds to existing Inova Cares clinics for children, families and women, each of which cater to particular community needs. And while housed in Leesburg, the new clinic is meant to serve people across the region and as a model for growing that service.

Karen Berube, Inova’s senior vice president and Community Health & Health Equity Chief, said the clinic grew out of Loudoun’s 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment, an effort by Inova, the Loudoun County Health Department and others. community organizations to identify the major health problems facing the county. Mental health has emerged as a top priority.

“There has been a lot of talk in the last three to five years about the need for more behavioral health out here. So this is really a direct result of that group saying there are services if you’re severely, chronically mentally ill, but if you’re struggling with mild to moderate depression, there’s really nowhere to go because everyone is looking to meet the needs that are most urgent at the moment,” he said.







One of the rooms at the Inova Cares Clinic for Behavioral Health, which offers mental health services for people without health insurance.




The clinic serves adults 18 years of age and older with mild to moderate mental health needs such as anxiety, depression, and pain, who are not insured or eligible for Inova Financial Assistance. It offers short-term weekly and bi-weekly individual therapy sessions, goal-oriented therapy, and links to other community and medical resources, and telehealth for people who can’t attend their session in person.

The new clinic opened in May, starting small with two therapists. One of the challenges in serving low-income residents is simply letting them know that help is available. Berube said he has tried different types of marketing, reaching out to the community center and social media.

“The traditional, you call your health plan and they tell you where to go for the services you need, it doesn’t work, so you have to get into the community,” she said. “And to be honest, our biggest source of referral is the community itself. Once the community feels comfortable and knows that the services are there and they won’t be billed for the services and that it’s free for them, then they tell their friends that they might struggle with the same thing.

Now those therapists’ schedules are filling up and the clinic is looking to hire more. The clinic seeks to hire therapists who understand the community, such as local therapists or those from immigrant families. It addresses an acute need: Demand for therapists is high, and even people with health insurance may find it difficult to find appointments elsewhere. And that low-income population is very stressed.







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One of the rooms at the Inova Cares Clinic for Behavioral Health, which offers mental health services for people without health insurance.




“When you feel that stress around ‘where is my next meal coming from?’ or ‘Do I pay for a behavioral health therapy session or do I buy food for my family?’ we are talking about a very different stress point,” she said. “You will always go for food and basic needs instead of taking care of yourself.”

Berube recalled one particular person the clinic helped, someone who was being treated next door at the Inova Ewing Forensic Assessment and Consultation Team, or FACT, which serves victims of violence and sexual abuse. The patient was, understandably, struggling emotionally.

“It was the end of the day and they didn’t know where to refer or send the patient. So they literally walked the patient across the parking lot to come here, and the therapist here was able to see the patient and provide immediate care,” Berube said. “…This is probably one of the most vulnerable times you’ve ever experienced “And to be able to get immediate help, that’s pretty profound in this day and age of lack of behavioral health services. I think that immediately spoke to us about the need.”

Others have their own struggles and victories as they work to improve their lives or move back out of their homes after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and social distancing. Berube said one patient was so anxious that she didn’t feel comfortable getting a driver’s license.

“Since she was in therapy, she has now gone to get her driver’s license, so that has been a success for me. He helps her find a job and re-enter the community. This is my concern that everyone is so isolated during the pandemic that it’s a struggle to get back in and out from behind computers and interacting with people again.

For Berube, who grew up with a single mother in a poorer neighborhood in North Carolina, bringing these services to the vulnerable and disenfranchised is a lifelong mission. From starting as a behavioral health therapist at Inova, she’s worked her way up the ranks, carrying that mission with her.

“I joke and say I’m an old school HIV social worker,” she said. “I started before we had protease inhibitors [a drug used to treat HIV], so I’ve been doing this work for a long time and it quickly became apparent to me that some communities were experiencing extreme disparities in the care they received. Health equity is real. There are differences in your socioeconomic and insurance status in the care you receive. And so it’s been a 25-year crusade of mine to try to narrow these disparities and close the gaps.

Sometimes that means a little extra help beyond the regular therapy session, like making sure a patient has a ride to get to their appointment.

“Many people think that equity in healthcare means that everyone gets a doctor’s appointment. No, this is equality — we all get the same thing,” she said. “Equity is about creating programs like this that provide the extra services community members might need to get the care they need.” .

Like HIV, Berube said she has seen people become more willing to talk about mental health.

“I don’t want to say that the stigma has gone away, because I don’t think it has, but I think with social media, people have felt more comfortable talking about it and sharing their struggles with mental health,” she said. she said. “And I think having more and more celebrity endorsements about mental health has helped people open up.”







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The entrance to the Inova Cares Clinic for Behavioral Health, which offers mental health services for people without health insurance.




And as preventative health care, getting surgery earlier at the clinic can help avoid more serious and costly surgery later.

“We don’t think about preventive mental health care, right? So if you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, and you’re able to get help with those diagnoses more readily, then you don’t transition into crisis state, hopefully, where you have to go to a hospital setting or emergency room,” she said. “You get that care in your community. As a trained behavioral health therapist, I think it’s much better care because we’re addressing needs as they arise.”

The clinic is funded by Inova and a community effort, including support from the O’Shaughnessy-Hurst Memorial Foundation, Mike and Teresa Wheeler, and Patti and John Sinnen.

“I find Loudoun to be one of my favorite places, because I find the Loudoun community to come forward when it’s needed,” Berube said.

For more information, visit inova.org/locations/inova-cares-clinic-behavioral-health or call 703-779-5480.

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