Washington County center exceeds projections six months after its opening in Hillsboro; it is modeled after others in the Portland area.

Business is booming at Washington County's walk-in mental health clinic, even though the center in Hillsboro opened just six months ago.

When county commissioners began planning for it more than two years ago, they said it was needed to meet pent-up demand to connect people with services.

"The fact that so many people are coming in shows that it's true," says Ginnie Churchill, manager of the Hawthorn walk-in clinic. "It's definitely needed. I'm sure we could use another one."

Churchill spoke after a talk Monday, Nov. 20, at the Washington County Public Affairs Forum.

The clinic started business May 23 just hours after the opening ceremonies. Entry is voluntary; it is not a substitute for hospital care.

The clinic drew from others in Oregon, including Cascadia in Portland — where Churchill was a clinic manager before her current job — Centerstone in Happy Valley, run by Clackamas County, and a clinic in Marion County.

"When we built this model, we were thinking we would serve up to 10 people a day, which is what Clackamas County serves," Churchill said in response to a question by forum president Rob Solomon.

"But it's been more like 15 people a day walking in, plus our mobile service on top of that, so it's twice the amount we have capacity for."

The clinic is at 5240 NE Elam Young Parkway, Hillsboro, just off the MAX Hawthorn light-rail stop. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Although people do not need appointments, they also can connect with the clinic through the county's crisis line at (503) 291-9111.

It is in the same complex with related county offices and an office of the Oregon Department of Human Services.

Churchill said clinic staffers assess people's conditions, make sure they are stable, and connect them with other services they may need. In some instances they provide follow-through actions.

Churchill said that while she had no specifics in hand, many people who seek help at the walk-in clinic are facing other problems — such as no permanent shelter, or drug and alcohol addictions — and clinic workers try to connect them with services.

The clinic is staffed by peers as well as professionals.

"When people come in for mental health services, it's helpful for them to talk to someone who has gone through a mental health crisis and received services," Churchill said. "They know what the person is going through."

Washington County contracts for clinic operation with LifeWorks Northwest, a nonprofit agency that is based in Cedar Mill and provides services in all three metro-area counties.

Although there is no out-of-pocket cost for people who use the walk-in clinic, Churchill said insurance is billed when appropriate.

The clinic receives much of its money through reimbursements from the Oregon Health Plan, the state-supported health insurance program for low-income people that is Oregon's version of Medicaid. The county also contributes.

LifeWorks continues to provide mobile service at the county jail, hospital emergency rooms, schools and households.

The agency also provides technicians, with master's degrees or more, for the two mental health response teams funded by the Washington County Sheriff's Office through the countywide law enforcement levy.

Police can bring people to the Hawthorn clinic through a separate entry.

In response to another question, Churchill said that while LifeWorks NW provides other services in Washington County, mental health crisis services are limited to the Hawthorn clinic right now.

Beaverton was considered as a location, she said, but the county could not find suitable space. She said a clinic in Beaverton or Tigard is a possibility for the future.

Churchill said there are some differences between her former Cascadia clinic and the Hawthorn clinic.

"But it's basically the same model," she said. "We took the best elements of all of them," including Centerstone in Happy Valley.

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