As a physician in psychiatry at a New York hospital, University of Chicago Booth School of Business student Tamir Aldad sees countless mental health patients in the emergency room each year, only to have to send many of them home with referrals to seek treatment on their own.
It is frustrating. The nation’s opioid epidemic and related mental health crisis have prompted millions of Americans annually to seek treatment in emergency rooms. They arrive with such mental illnesses as substance use disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or potential risk of self-harm.
But most of these emergency room patients—7 out of 10 by some measures—go home untreated. They are unable to see an inpatient psychiatrist because their symptoms aren’t severe enough to be admitted to the hospital. Instead, they “boomerang back to the ER in a couple of weeks with the same or worse problem than they came in for in the first place,” Aldad said.
Outside the hospital, the outlook isn’t much better. The wait to see a psychiatrist in an outpatient clinic or doctor’s office is four to eight weeks in New York, and longer in rural parts of the country where the shortage of psychiatrists is more acute.
To fill these potentially life-threatening gaps in U.S. health care, the 33-year-old Aldad enrolled in Chicago Booth’s Executive MBA program intent on finding a way to address the problem. Aldad enrolled in the Booth’s Executive MBA entrepreneurship track and launched a startup called Mindful Urgent Care with fellow Booth students.
Mindful Urgent Care is a walk-in psychiatric clinic designed to provide same-day mental health and addiction treatment to both insured and cash-paying clients. Staffed by a team of mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, Mindful Urgent Care aims to increase mental health access and speed quality and affordable treatment to a population of patients with unmet needs.