Associate professor Lesley Lutes, director of clinical training for the PHD program in clinical psychology at UBC Okanagan. Photo: UBC Okanagan

UBC Okanagan mental health clinic to remain open

After a successful five-week pilot project, the drop-in clinic is staying open on campus

A permanent walk-in wellness clinic is staying open on the UBC Okanagan campus.

After its five-week trial, the demand for the no-barrier mental health centre was large enough from students and the community that the doors are to remain open.

“This is a game changer,” said Lesley Lutes, associate professor and director of clinical training for the PhD program in clinical psychology at UBC Okanagan.

“This is a space where community members can drop in for free mental health services without an appointment or referral. It’s changing the way people are accessing care for their mental health.”

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This is the first public walk-in mental health clinic on a university campus in B.C. The clinic has a two-fold purpose: provide support to community members in distress and train students in the future of health care delivery.

Lutes’ team accommodated more than 50 drop-ins in the five-week unfunded program last fall, helping patients who were experiencing various issues including stress, depression, anxiety, serious mental illness and suicide risk.

“This clinic is for the community. People begin to experience symptoms and don’t know where to go because there is no primary care for mental health,” said Lutes.

“They often don’t seek help until they’re in crisis, and end up in an emergency room where they’re more likely to get medication only, rather than treatments involving therapy.”

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In the past decade, emergency room admissions related to mental health have increased 300 per cent, and in 60 per cent of primary care visits, patients report a mental issue. UBC Okanagan’s walk-in-wellness clinic is the first step in Lutes’ ultimate goal of introducing psychologists into primary care.

“We’re here to help. We created this clinic because we know that life is stressful for everyone at times. We want people to know that there is an excellent evidence-based resource available to them free of charge,” said Lutes.

“If you haven’t struggled with anxiety, depression, loss, divorce, substance use or binge eating, odds are someone you care about has. Life is life and it affects us both physically and emotionally—and Okanagan residents deserve health care that treats their whole self.”

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The walk-in clinic is open Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. located at the Inter-professional Clinic on UBC Okanagan.

More information can be found at psych.ok.ubc.ca.

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