This spring, the Good Samaritan Free Clinic received approval to participate in the Americares ECHO-Chicago Serious Mental Illness Project, a grant-funded workforce development opportunity designed to improve medical care in underserved communities. The Clinic entered this competitive grant process with the hopes of extending staff’s knowledge regarding serious mental illnesses and to receive training in trauma-informed care best practices.

According to ECHO-Chicago, which facilitated this project, nearly one in five U.S. adults experiences some form of mental illness in any given year. We estimate that the ratio is nearly two in three Talbot House clients. For those experiencing homelessness,  mental illnesses are more severe, last longer, and tend to have worse outcomes. It is reported that only 41 percent of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services last year. Untreated mental illness cost America about $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.

Over the last 15 weeks, Clinic staff have benefited from deep dives into the symptoms, prognoses, and treatment of multiple serious mental illnesses and disorders. They have networked with psychiatric experts and free clinics across the country to discuss patient case studies and specific tools and resources to improve their effectiveness.

“Mental health is the issue, period.” emphasized Dr. Elizabeth Palazzi-Xirinachs, Clinic Director. “If I, as a Clinic Director, do not provide that kind of help, then I’m really not doing my job here.”

This incredible grant opportunity has dramatically expanded our Clinic’s expertise and capacity to address serious mental illnesses among our population, and to advocate for our patients in the community. The Clinic team has launched a new assessment tool, “WHODAS 2.0,” to determine what physical or mental disabilities are preventing their patients from achieving their goals. Working together with our case management team, this data will help match clients with appropriate activities and resources and hopefully demonstrate improvement over time. We have also successfully begun recruiting volunteers from the psychiatric community to assist in patient care.

The Good Samaritan Free Clinic at Talbot House continues to seek volunteer medical professionals to join them in improving the quality of life among our low-income, uninsured patients. If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering, please contact us online or at (863) 687-8475 ext. 101.