After a year in operation, downtown Santa Barbara’s Integrated Care Clinic — the first dental-mental-medical health clinic targeting low-income residents — has reported significantly more walk-in business than anticipated. To date, there have been 1,577 medical visits, about 300 more than initially projected. Of those, 282 were for dental treatment and the rest for traditional medical care. All but 300 were uninsured.
The clinic is a collaboration between two separate providers, the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics and Sanctuary Centers, the latter providing mental health treatment. The approach was to provide disciplinary treatment; for example, all patients walking into the clinic would be greeted by a licensed therapist. According to Amy Winslow of Sanctuary Centers, about 90 percent of all patients reported mental health or substance abuse issues. Among the top ten reasons patients gave for their visit were depression and anxiety. Many patients, Winslow said, presented with medical issues made worse by shame or trauma. People with “meth mouth,” the dental condition afflicting methamphetamine users, for example, often avoid treatment because of shame. The presence of a therapist, she said, helped “normalize” that.
Winslow said the great success of the clinic is the number of times patients came back. The clinic, located at 115 West Anapamu Street, is not the only effort at integrating mental health and medical treatment in Santa Barbara — the American Indian Health & Services shares that distinction — but it’s the first one downtown and it’s the first involving two agencies. Given that the Integrated Care Clinic has targeted those without insurance, grants have been required to cover operating costs.