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Open Access Delivers Mental Health Services in a Timely Way

Open Access Delivers Mental Health Services in a Timely Way

Caption: Pictured left to right are the For All Seasons Client Services Team: George King, Lesa Lee, and Omar Bolden.

In October 2022, For All Seasons launched an innovative method to eliminate its waitlist and allow individuals and families to begin mental health services in a timely way. For All Seasons’ “Open Access” program allows individuals to select a time window and a location, complete their intake and meet with a therapist on the same day. Open Access is the first mental health delivery model of its kind on the Eastern Shore.

“Open Access was about finding a way to open up more spots to increase the capacity of the agency because there was such a need in the community. We started small initially to make sure that we could handle the capacity of clients who were coming in. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t overpromise and underdeliver. It was really important for us to make sure that when somebody came in through Open Access for their assessment that we could pair them up with their longtime clinician,” comments Lesa Lee, Chief Clinical Officer at For All Seasons.

“We had a wonderful team working together to transition people from the waitlist to Open Access and safely to clinicians. Because we were hiring new clinicians, we could open up more spots to increase that capacity.”

For All Seasons started with 16 Open Access appointments a week and has increased that number to 22 appointments which includes its office locations in Easton and Denton, and its telehealth appointments. In addition, the agency is offering an appointment each week in support of its partnership with Chesapeake College students. In the last eight months, For All Seasons has brought in 509 new clients through Open Access and eliminated its waitlist. 

Because the Open Access process allows For All Seasons staff to gather all the client information at once, including insurance, consents, and releases of information, the process is expedited and enables the client to also have a licensed clinician do the initial mental health assessment at the same time. This more streamlined process allows people to come in at their time of need, versus having to wait months on a waitlist to be seen by a clinician for the initial assessment. In addition, staff have found that clients coming in for Open Access are more motivated to begin services and are more likely to continue over time.

In addition to offering Open Access at its Talbot Street office, For All Seasons is also now offering Open Access in its Market Street Office in Denton and through telehealth so that there are no barriers for people living in any of Maryland’s 24 counties to receive mental health services. It has expanded the agency’s reach beyond the Mid-Shore. Because For All Seasons is a trauma expert, this has been another draw for people using its services.

Open Access appointments are available and made in person at For All Seasons’ 300 Talbot Street office in Easton (Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays between 8 and 9:30 a.m. and Wednesdays between 12 p.m. and 1:30 pm., at its 322 Market Street office in Denton (Mondays and Thursdays between 8 and 9 a.m.), and through Telehealth (Fridays between 8 and 8:30 a.m. via Zoom). Open Access is a first-come first-serve program. The initial intake can be approximately 25 minutes and the mental health assessment can be up to one hour long. Once the Open Access visit is complete, individuals are scheduled for ongoing therapy appointments within a week at an agreeable date, time, and location at one of For All Seasons’ seven offices or via the telehealth option. Psychiatric appointments are made in two weeks. If For All Seasons reaches its capacity for the number of Open Access slots on a given day, individuals are encouraged to come back at their convenience on another day.

“We encourage individuals to come in as early as possible for Open Access to reserve a spot and to confirm Open Access times on our website before coming. With Open Access through telehealth, individuals do not need to come in person as everything is done virtually, which helps our clients who live a distance or are disabled,” she adds.

“We can help people much more quickly. What’s good for the clients is if you are in crisis, you are not waiting on a waitlist for weeks or months, plus pretty quickly you’re going to see a therapist for your very first session and a mental health assessment,” states George King, Director of Practice Operations.

“If something comes up, our staff can deal with it in real-time and get individuals in for an appointment. We’re excellent with our workflows and our communication. I’ve never worked at a place where everybody helps one another, regardless of your job title, which ultimately benefits our clients.”

According to King, the turnout in For All Seasons’ Denton office has been positively received. There is a high need in Caroline County and the staff is now able to meet that need. In addition, For All Seasons has interpreters who can tackle any language barrier that might exist.

For Client Services Specialist Omar Bolden, being able to reassure clients about getting a timely appointment makes him feel more a part of the client’s healing and recovery from the beginning. He states, “It makes me feel more confident in my job, knowing that this option gives them a guaranteed timeframe of when they can come in and start services. On the frontline, I create a relationship right from the beginning with the client. Having a positive attitude and always remaining calm helps to set the tone for how our agency’s services will be provided. It’s more so of a helping hand – I am taking them by the hand and personally helping them get to where they need to go through Open Access.”

“These clients are coming in from all kinds of backgrounds.  They may be suicidal, have gone through a difficult breakup, or experienced a traumatic event or loss. Being able to see a therapist for the very first time and not having to wait is a huge reassurance to them. I can say that Open Access is having a positive effect on our community,” Bolden adds.

For further information regarding documentation needed for Open Access or appointment times, call (410) 822-1018 or visit Individuals needing financial assistance for Open Access should call For All Seasons billing department at (410) 822-1018 x311.