Alexander Holmes and UCare at CSS
Nearly 10 years ago PeaceHealth and a handful of committed employees recognizing the need to address mental and behavioral health issues among access-challenged members of our community created the Unified Care Clinic. Unified Care Clinic, also known as UCare, now provides mental and general health-care service to over 800 clients from their office at the Hilyard Street PeaceHealth facility in Eugene. Originally funded by PeaceHealth, the clinic is now mainly supported through grants and numbers over two dozen employees including nurses, physicians, psychiatrists, counselors, and office staff. The clinic still operates as part of PeaceHealth and receives its continued support.
Alexander Holmes RN, MSN, is one of the original Ucare employees who has empowered this growth. Alexander, who grew up in Dexter and is a University of Oregon undergraduate, received his nursing degree from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In a recent conversation he explained the services Ucare provides and how its team has been working in partnership with the CSS community.
“What we do is inverted integrated primary care,” Alexander explained. “We are a behavioral health clinic primarily so we have psychiatrists and counselors, predominantly, but we [also] have Kathy who does primary care within the behavioral health setting.” Team members Kathy Kernan, FNP-C, and Angela Brady, FNP-C, are nurse practitioners and provide the primary health-care element to qualifying CSS residents. The target demographic Ucare serves are people who have run out of all other health-care options. “We are the last stop gap before someone is either permanently hospitalized or has to go to mandatory treatment. We have a particular focus on people who have barriers to treatment because of being unhoused.”
Over the past year the Ucare team has visited each CSS site introducing themselves and their program, building trust, and signing residents up for services. This included help with navigating the extensive paperwork to access care through PeaceHealth. “It’s a better entry point because oftentimes their entry point has to be the Emergency Department,” Alexander noted.
Since completing the CSS site tour, Ucare now meets with residents weekly on Tuesdays’ Reboot at CSS where they provide regular mental health and primary care to qualifying residents. Any needs that cannot be offered on site can be arranged through the PeaceHealth system, including office visits at the Ucare Hilyard Street location. “We try to cover everything in our clinic. Once someone qualifies, we can offer pretty much everything.” This includes access to psychiatric and primary care but also case management, peer support, and substance abuse programs. In addition to providing a weekly meeting point, CSS further reduces barriers to health care by actions such as transportation coordination to offsite appointments. Alexander estimates that the team currently meets 10 to 15 clients weekly and that 30 to 40 have been enrolled to date through the CSS site visits.
Alexander points out that access to mental health care is challenging. “There is such a need and people who are at the very bottom, who have all these barriers, in our state, it is literally impossible for them to access services.” Alexander and the team at Ucare are making a difference by proactively seeking and involving themselves and their services in these communities. Alexander simply sums up their mission to their clients: “We want to give them hope and dignity.”