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Credo operating mental health clinic, eyes another expansion

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WATERTOWN — Responding to client need, Credo Community Center for the Treatment of Addictions is now providing mental health services.

Although also located at 595 W. Main St., Credo’s new mental health clinic is a separate entity from the outpatient addiction treatment program. Credo Executive Director James P. Scordo said the clinic is operated under guidance of the state Office of Mental Health, while addiction services are operated under the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

“It started primarily due to our own client need; about 50 percent of our clients had a co-occurring disorder,” Mr. Scordo said. “It was a long wait to get them into services.”

As many Credo clients struggled with addictions to alcohol or other substances, many also experienced a mental health disorder, some of which had gone untreated because of wait times upwards of several months for behavioral health appointments. Open since April 28, Credo’s mental health clinic will help lessen those wait times, he said.

“It’s important we also provide that service to the community, not just people who come in for our services,” said Caryn White, clinical director. “We have a handful of patients so far who are not affiliated with Credo at all.”

The clinic is open daily, to people 16 and older. It will be celebrated Monday with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting event.

Barbara Eddy, director of outpatient services, said there is no waiting list, for now. A few appointment slots daily remain open to help people work through a mental health crisis that may arise.

Credo’s mental health clinic is the fourth such state Office of Mental Health-licensed clinic in Jefferson County, with three others being affiliated with Samaritan Medical Center, Carthage Area Hospital and the Children’s Home of Jefferson County. Credo once had considered a merger with Family Counseling Services of Northern New York to provide mental health services, but that idea fizzled. That counseling agency also does not yet have an Office of Mental Health license.

Mrs. Eddy said the mental health clinic is on the second floor of the agency’s most recent addition to its West Main Street offices. The clinic is composed of a conference room and a few office spaces and is led by three full-time counselors, Ms. White as the clinical director, a medical/intake coordinator and a part-time receptionist. A part-time psychiatric nurse practitioner also is on staff, and psychiatrist Jeffrey Aronowitz serves as part-time medical director. Dr. Aronowitz, who has a private practice, also is Credo’s medical director for its substance abuse clinic and male residence in Evans Mills.

Throughout the past several weeks since the mental health clinic’s opening, clinic staff has received service referrals for family members of Credo clients. As the nonprofit works toward treating clients as a whole, it also may serve a client’s family based on mental health or substance abuse treatment needs.

“It’s a big push toward integrated care,” Mrs. Eddy said. “There’s a whole redesign approach happening.”

Credo clients who seek, or require, both mental health and substance abuse treatment services most likely will receive appointments on the same day. Ms. White said that may help increase client participation.

Mr. Scordo said while the mental health clinic is underway, so are plans for another possible expansion. In its most recent expansion, completed in late 2010, Credo added a 5,793-square-foot space and renovated the older part of the building. That project gave staff members private rooms, break rooms and a large room to conduct training workshops. The main lobby was relocated, and the former front lobby was remodeled into the executive wing.

The agency now is looking to move administration offices off site, to provide additional space for both the mental health and substance abuse treatment outpatient clinics. That move would give Credo “significant options,” Mr. Scordo said.

“I think long range — three to five years — it’d be nice to think we could use another capital project, using the capital fund from OASAS,” he said. “We’re in the process of exploring the property that joins ours in the back.”

Another expansion would mean all services at 595 W. Main St. would fit comfortably.

Because of all of Credo’s changes, Mr. Scordo said the nonprofit plans to shorten its name to just Credo Inc. For more information about the agency, or to set up an appointment, call 788-1530.

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