Design of and outcomes in a student-run free mental health clinic serving the uninsured in East Harlem

Powell SK, Saali A, Frere J, Magill E, Krystal H, Serafini RA, Sultana S, Dale B, Ali M, Kumar V, Datta D, Hernandez-Antonio J, Aronson A, Meah YS, Gluhoski V, Katz CL

10.1186/s12888-022-04112-w 26/07/2022

PMID: 35883038


Background: Safety-net clinics are an important source of low-cost or free mental healthcare to those with limited financial resources. Such clinics are often staffed by trainees in early stages of their career. Only limited data exist on best practices in treatment-implementation and on clinical outcomes attained in such clinics. The primary purpose of this article is to describe the design of an outpatient psychiatry student-run free clinic (SRFC) serving uninsured individuals in New York City’s East Harlem neighborhood and to analyze the quality of services provided and the clinical outcomes attained.

Methods: The authors conducted a retrospective chart review of n = 69 patients treated in the EHHOP Mental Health Clinic (E-MHC) to describe the demographic and clinical characteristics of the study population. Utilizing Health Effectiveness Data and Information Set metrics, they estimated the likelihoods of patients meeting metric quality criteria compared to those in other New York State (NYS) insurance groups. The authors derived linear mixed effect and logistic regression models to ascertain factors associated with clinical outcomes. Finally, the authors collected patient feedback on the clinical services received using a customized survey.

Results: Almost all patients were of Hispanic ethnicity, and about half of patients had more than one psychiatric disorder. The clinical service performance of the E-MHC was non-inferior on most measures examined. Factors associated with symptom improvement were the number of treatment sessions and certain demographic and clinical variables. Patients provided highly positive feedback on the mental healthcare services they received.

Conclusions: SRFCs can provide quality care to vulnerable patients that leads to clinically meaningful reductions in psychiatric symptoms and is well-received by patients.

Keywords: HEDIS; Immigrants; Patient outcomes; Psychiatry; Student-run free clinic.