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KidsPeace, Lehigh County Mark Anniversary of Partnership on Walk-In Assessments

By March 7, 2024No Comments

One year into their innovative partnership to make mental health assessments more available to families in need, KidsPeace and Lehigh County are calling the effort an outstanding success in improving access to mental healthcare services.

In February 2023 the two entities announced that the county would provide financial support for KidsPeace’s offering of free walk-in mental health assessments at its Lehigh County clinics on Green Street in Allentown and the Broadway Campus in Fountain Hill.  Families facing a mental health challenge or crisis can have a child or adult assessed by a clinical professional free of charge and without an appointment, and receive a safety screening, risk assessment and a safety plan, as well as recommendations on further care. 

KidsPeace Executive Director of PA Community Programs Chris Ferry said thanks to the partnership, a total of 274 Lehigh County residents received a free walk-in assessment during 2023 – and more than two-thirds of them were connected to a service afterwards for ongoing support.  

Ferry added that post-visit surveys reinforced the value the service provided to those who received assessments:

  • 94% of individuals surveyed stated that their experience with the walk-in service was positive. 
  • 84% agreed that the service helped them avoid a potential crisis.
  • And fully half of those surveyed noted that the walk-in service helped them avoid an emergency room visit – one of the main goals of the KidsPeace walk-in assessment program. 

Comments from the surveys include:

  • “We feel like we were heard and are coming out with a comprehensive next step.”
  • “Very professional and careful to explain everything.  Highly appreciated.”
  • “I feel this will give us some answers to our questions.”
  • “Good experience and clear next steps.”
  • “I appreciate all the help I was given for my mental health.”

The partnership also included funding for a case manager to focus on follow-up care with all Lehigh County residents after their walk-in assessment.  

“The case manager reviews the recommended level of care, provides guidance for next steps, completes the walk-in survey, and offers to connect to any services that would be beneficial,” Ferry said.  “The case manager has helped consumers navigate the mental health system, assisted consumers with completing Medicaid paperwork, secured stable housing as needed, and offered a virtual check-in group as a bridge gap until services are started. We’re proud to note that every one of the Lehigh County residents who completed a walk-in assessment in 2023 also received an outreach call from the case manager afterwards.” 

Data from the walk-ins show that 53% of individuals assessed are aged 4 to 12-years, with 36% aged 13 to 18-years. The top three presenting issues for a walk-in include School/Home/Daycare issues (28%), Suicidal Ideations (27%), and Anger/Aggression (14%). 

Joshua Bridges, Lehigh County’s Administrator for Mental Health, Intellectual Disabilities, Early Intervention Services, and Drug & Alcohol, noted that the agreement with KidsPeace originated with the desire to help families struggling with mental and behavioral healthcare challenges.

“Our goal with this program was to make mental health care more accessible. We felt we needed to provide families an alternative to waiting weeks or even months to see a mental health professional or clinician,” he said.

“One year in, we believe the program is accomplishing that goal.”

Ferry said that in the ten years that KidsPeace has provided walk-in assessments, more than 6,000 families, children and adults were able to find appropriate care for individuals who are suffering a mental health crisis, while at the same time the program diverts those cases from traditional hospital emergency departments.

Bob Martin

Bob Martin is the Director of Communications at KidsPeace. 800-25-PEACE, ext. 7797 |