Many adults experiencing emotional distress seek help at hospital emergency rooms. But Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, has made an alternative program available for persons in Burlington County who are not in need of hospitalization.

It’s called the Early Intervention Support Services Program, which “is a psychiatric urgent care clinic, providing rapid access to mental health intervention and co-occurring treatment for those in mental health crisis or with substance use disorder treatment needs,” said Susan Loughery, associate executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton.

“Someone who is looking for help can come in and meet with someone right away,” Loughery said. The clinic is staffed with licensed clinicians, psychiatrists, nurse clinicians and peer community health workers and clients “don’t need a referral, they don’t need an appointment and they don’t need insurance,” she said.

In Burlington County, the EISS program is located within the Delaware House facility in Westampton and operates seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. New clients are seen on a walk-in basis from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

During a Dec. 8 celebration to mark EISS’ opening, Marlene Lao-Collins, Catholic Charities executive director, said that the program joins an array of mental health services that Delaware House has provided since it was established in 1971.

“For a half of a century, Catholic Charities has been committed to providing care to individuals with mental health needs, a population that, historically, has been overlooked and underserved,” Lao-Collins said to the gathering that included state health and government officials, and legislators.

According to Loughery, EISS services will include: crisis intervention and stabilization services; medication prescription; administration and education; concurring substance use disorder and mental health treatment; short-term individual psychotherapy; family therapy; Wellness Recovering Action Plans; referrals and linkages to community services such as financial entitlements, housing, primary healthcare, education and employment services with particular attention to services identified in the consumer’s WRAP.

“There is definitely a need” for a program like EISS and “there is a lot of work to do,” Loughery emphasized. She went on to say that “suicide rates have been on the rise,” increasing by 24 percent over the last 20 years according to the National Institutes of Health. In 2020, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there was one suicide death every 11 minutes and that 1.4 million adults attempted suicide in the U.S. In 2021, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, there has been an “alarming increase of four percent, with a significant increase in males ages 15-24,” Loughery said.

Loughery said that EISS is a New Jersey Department of Human Services contracted program for psychiatric urgent care that originally rolled out in 11 counties in New Jersey in 2014 and “quickly proved to be practical alternatives to hospital emergency rooms.

“As a living room model of treatment, services are provided in a comfortable, community environment,” she said. She noted that Catholic Charities received one of the first EISS contracts in 2014 and opened its doors in Trenton. The program relocated to Hamilton a few years later.

In Burlington County, Catholic Charities applied for state funding in early 2022, received the funding in May “and our doors were open for services by the following month, Loughery said.

“Thanks to the advocacy of so many and the dedication of our state Department of Human Services and Division of Mental Health and Addiction Service, our legislators and the governor’s office, we now have these life-saving programs in all 21 counties in New Jersey,” Loughery said.