WATERTOWN — Construction continues at Citizen Advocates’ mental health urgent care facility on State Street, on the site of the former Great American grocery store.
Founded in 1975, Citizen Advocates first served as a workplace program for people in need of developmental and behavioral health support and has since grown to encompass many other community services.
The new Watertown location will be the latest in a series of similar facilities opened by Citizen Advocates across the north of the country. Although this is its first facility in Jefferson County, the company has maintained a presence in Franklin, St. Lawrence, Clinton, Essex and Hamilton counties. In April, the last mental health emergency care opened in Ogdensburg. Oofficials inaugurated on August 30 on another behavioral health urgent care center in Malone.
“When I talk to friends and family about what Citizen Advocates does, I refer to Citizen Advocates as an integrated health services provider,” said James D. Button, CEO of Citizen Advocates. “We provide quality clinical care, and that is behavioral health, mental health, addictions treatment and services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. But then we’ll get into any industry, any program that really helps people thrive in the community, because we at Citizen Advocates recognize that quality clinical care will only get you so far. ‘now. In fact, a person’s journey to recovery begins in a clinical setting, but their outcomes are largely determined in the community.
In addition to clinical services, Citizen Advocates provides transportation, care coordination and supported employment, and also works with housing, food and fuel insecurity, aiming to emerge in the face of all barriers, social determinants of health, which might get in the way of someone who is living life meaningfully and with purpose, Mr. Button said.
In Watertown, the 650 State St. facility, purchased by Citizen Advocates on Jan. 20 for $625,000, according to city property records, will provide behavioral health care in a range of categories, including substance abuse, mental illness, crisis services and disabilities. Work to transform the old grocery store into a state-of-the-art medical clinic will take time, and the company is planning an official opening date next spring.
“Citizen Advocates has over 120 different programs that are aimed at helping people thrive in the community,” Button said. “Our comment and the way we explain ourselves to others is that if you need surgery you go to the hospital. If you need anything else you can go to Citizen Advocates.
What will open in Watertown is one of Citizen Advocates’ 24-hour crisis care clinics, called BHUC, or Behavioral Health Urgent Care. The company recognizes that background, or people’s desire to change, doesn’t necessarily occur within the confines of a normal working day, Button said.
In order to remove the barriers that people traditionally face in accessing appropriate care, people do not need to be referred to Citizen Advocate services and there are no wait times – you’ll be seen if you walk in – and you don’t have to make an appointment.
Citizen Advocates is paid for its services, just as a doctor’s office is paid. He provides a service and then bills an insurance company for that service.
“We render the medical and social determinants of health services and we get paid by managed care companies,” Button said. “So the majority of our revenue comes from managed care companies and a federal managed care system, which is Medicaid and Medicare. We have grants, but often these are grants to help programs get started, not grants to help us run the programs.
Just because Citizen Advocates charges insurance companies for most services, they won’t turn someone away for inability to pay. Mr Button noted that they have sliding scales and will connect people to health insurance if they are uninsured. They also have unpaid care pools that they can use to support people who cannot afford to pay.
“We want to help everyone, and the ability to pay shouldn’t be a barrier that keeps people from living with purpose and thriving in the community,” said Button.
Services to be offered through the Watertown clinic will include drug treatment for addictions, crisis services and respite services, which means people can stay overnight if they need a place to stay. According to Button, Citizen Advocates works closely with and addresses homelessness, food insecurity, lack of employment and lack of transportation, essentially asking people who are unlucky or in need of a helping hand to come, whatever their problem. , and they will try to connect them carefully.
Mr Button said the company wants to be known as a hub where people can figure out what they need to get back on their feet.
He said Citizen Advocates are not only in contact with the local homelessness coalition, but are sitting there and trying to be part of the solution. One of Citizen Advocates’ big projects, Harison Place in Malone, came about after the company recognized there was a huge problem with housing insecurity and could create a win-win situation. -winning by revitalizing the city center while providing services.
He said Citizen Advocates is looking at the needs of the entire area with a focused look at everything between Plattsburgh and Watertown and believes there is an opportunity to provide additional housing not only in Malone but also in Massena, Ogdensburg. and Watertown, it will therefore seek to support efforts to address some of the problem of housing insecurity in these areas.
Regarding the future and opening of the Watertown clinic, Citizen Advocates plans to hire between 25 and 35 new staff for positions ranging from nurses, doctors and nurse practitioners to care coordinators, social workers, clinicians, therapists, crisis counselors and transport and housing experts.
Mr Button said the local reception has so far been warm in Watertown and Jefferson County and Citizen Advocates is delighted to begin providing services in the area.
“We want the people of the Watertown area to recognize that we are northerners serving northerners,” Button said. “Our management team hails from upstate New York. I personally grew up in Canton, so this is our backyard. We understand community needs and opportunities for change.