Timely access to services has historically been one of the greatest hurdles of those seeking treatment for mental and behavioral health issues. During the COVID-19 pandemic, timely access has become even more important, as anxiety and stress levels begin to rise due to the uncertainty surrounding us all. As a part of their commitment to LaPorte County, Swanson Center has created a process to help remove these barriers. The Open Access Center is designed to meet the needs of people who are seeking treatment and helps them to take that first step in the (treatment) process.
The Open Access Center at Swanson Center allows anyone seeking treatment for mental and behavioral health issues to have the ability to walk in during the specified times at the designated locations and begin the registration process. Nichole Semala, MSW, LCSW, Open Access Coordinator, said, “The goal is to provide an intake for each patient on the same day that they begin this process, and to facilitate the process of the scheduling a follow-up appointment for services within the agency.”

The intake process requires approximately two (2) hours to complete for each patient, from beginning to end. After each patient has completed the required intake forms, they meet with a staff member to begin an orientation. Semala said that the orientation includes a bit more information gathering and completion of a registration process. The next step is to then meet with an Open Access Center Intake Therapist who provides an evaluation in order to help determine the patient’s level of need and a discussion of the services that would be recommend. For some, this evaluation may take place immediately, while for others, it may be scheduled for a later date and time. Scheduling for same-day services at the Open Access Center is done on a first come, first served basis. “As a precaution (due to COVID-19), we have added some temporary processes, such as video assessments with the therapist and other temporary telehealth measures,” said Semala
Semala provided some important information to note: Persons seeking to use the Open Access Center should bring their photo ID, proof of insurance (if applicable), proof of income, and/or proof of guardianship or power of attorney. “This will help to make the registration and orientation processes more efficient for both the patients and our staff.”, she noted.
While the Open Access Center is available in both the LaPorte and Michigan City offices of Swanson Center at specific times during normal business hours, they are operating on a limited schedule due to COVID-19. In LaPorte, this program is available on Wednesday, from 9:00am-4:00pm; and in Michigan City, Tuesday through Thursday, from 9:00am-4:00pm. Once the restrictions are lifted from the state and local officials, these hours will be expanded. Persons entering the Swanson Center buildings are also asked to wear a face mask.

An Indiana community mental health center, Swanson Center provides the full continuum of mental and behavioral health services to La Porte County residents, including psychiatric medicine, outpatient individual, group, and family therapies, substance use disorder treatment, community-based, as well as school-based case management, child and adolescent services, and group home and semi-independent living environments. Swanson Center, with over 100 employees, maintains fulltime offices in both Michigan City and La Porte.
For more information regarding the Open Access Center or other services provided by Swanson Center, please call 219-879-4621, or visit our website at www.swansoncenter.org.

Photo was taken by Jennifer Heath

Photo: “Nicole Semala, MSW, LCSW, Access Center Coordinator, interviews a new patient during an intake session at Swanson Center.”