Plans for downtown mental health walk-in clinic unveiled at panel discussion

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Frisbie CEO John Marzinzik speaks during a panel discussion on a mental health initiative that will include a walk in clinic downtown. (Rochester Voice photo)

ROCHESTER - Frisbie Memorial Hospital CEO John Marzinzik wants to do for mental health services in the city what has already been done to combat the opioid crisis.

That means boots on the ground in the form of an outpatient clinic in the downtown.

He laid out his plans during a Friday panel discussion that included about 60 representatives from the city, schools, police, Community Partners and Frisbie's Emergency Department.

"There's the mental health challenges of divorce, homelessness, bullying and substance abuse," said Marzinzik, adding that 80 percent of drug addicts also have mental health issues.

All of these life situations can put a person at risk of mental illness into a full emotional tailspin, he said.

"And when they come into the emergency room in crisis, they could be schizophrenic, depressed or bipolar, and we have no place to send them," Marzinzik said.

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In the past some would be evaluated and approved for admittance to New Hampshire Hospital in Concord, but some would be referred to counseling that might be weeks away.

To give them an appointment three weeks away is not acceptable, Marzinzik reasoned.

"And they're thinking, 'Do I want to kill myself or wait till tomorrow,'" he said. "It's not acceptable. And we have no place to send them."

But that's going to change, he said.

Frisbie trustees have already approved the renting of a downtown building, the old Hair Excitement, for a walk-in clinic. Marzinzik said anybody needing mental health services will be welcome there whether they have insurance or not, adding he's also secured a grant that will pay for any shortfall Frisbie may incur.

"We will turn nobody away," Marzinzik said.

To aid the effort will be a quarter-million dollar fund-raising drive, along with a vital partnership with Community Partners, which currently handles patients with mental health issues at Frisbie's Emergency Department.

Renovation of the former Hair Excitement building is expected to begin in a few weeks.

Marzinzik said there are a myriad of various mental health issues plaguing many residents of the city and now they will have a place to go.

He compared it to how everyone has a primary care physician for their health, and now they can get the same services for their mental health.

"We need to create resources that address the whole health of our population," Marzinzik said. "We take that very seriously.

"And not having the resources is not a reason not to do the right thing."

He said he hoped that by giving folks the primary mental health care they need may also prevent them having to come to the Emergency Room in crisis mode.

"We can stem the tide and get them receiving care earlier," he said, adding the response from the community and stakeholders in the effort had been "excellent."

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