When to visit psychiatric urgent care vs. emergency room

The MIND 24-7 Team | August 4, 2023

In a mental health crisis, knowing where to go for help is essential. It is also important to know where to get help before a crisis occurs. In many places, the emergency department is the only option for immediate care; the alternative being a several-week wait to get an appointment with a mental health provider. In other places, like Phoenix, Ariz., individuals and families can go to a psychiatric urgent care or emergency room. When both options are available, how do you choose? In this guide, we explain the differences between urgent care vs. emergency room and how to know when to seek help. 

Key differences between psychiatric urgent care vs. emergency room

Both psychiatric urgent care centers and emergency rooms are health care facilities that provide mental health care 24/7, 365 days a year, including holidays. Both facilities also take insurance and, in the case of MIND 24-7, both facilities will treat patients regardless of their ability to pay. 

There are also some key differences between these two facilities to keep in mind: 

Psychiatric urgent care centers

  • A psychiatric urgent care center is specifically and exclusively for mental health support. 
  • Experts are available to help adults and youth manage and overcome many mental health conditions and symptoms. 
  • Patients can receive medication management, crisis intervention, stabilization, counseling and more. 
  • A significant benefit of psychiatric urgent care is that it does not take a long time to be seen and receive help.

Emergency room

  • Emergency rooms are equipped to handle situations that threaten life and limb as well as all types of mental health crises.
  • Emergency rooms can conduct testing and provide rapid and advanced treatment. 
  • A downside to visiting an emergency department for a mental health crisis is that it may take a long time to be seen. 
  • It may also take a long time to get help and be discharged.

How to know when to seek psychiatric urgent care vs. emergency room

The best way to prepare for a crisis is to make a plan when a crisis is not happening. A critical part of any crisis plan is knowing where to get help. So, how does one know when to go to a psychiatric urgent care or an emergency room? Here are three points to consider:

  • Severity of symptoms: People experiencing bodily injuries, chest pain or difficulty breathing should go to an emergency room for medical care in addition to mental health care. For mental health symptoms without any acute medical needs, patients should consider visiting a psychiatric urgent care clinic. 
  • Health care setting: People should consider the type of setting in which they prefer to receive mental health care. Psychiatric urgent care centers provide a more personalized, calm setting. 
  • Accessibility: In many emergencies, the best place to go is the closest place. Those unable to drive should choose a facility that is within walking distance or easily accessible by public transportation, taxi or ride share.

MIND 24-7 psychiatric urgent care services

At MIND 24-7, we offer walk-in mental health and substance use services to people of all ages, regardless of their ability to pay. We understand that mental health problems can’t wait four to six weeks to be treated. At the same time, we recognize that most patients don’t want to seek emergency care for their mental health challenges. That’s why we are here when patients need us—24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

Through Express care, we offer walk-in mental health services for patients who want to see a certified professional and quickly be on their way again. Through Progressions, we provide ongoing individual and group counseling and peer support for patients for up to 90 days. 

We also provide walk-in, emergency Crisis care for children and adults. Once we determine a patient needs crisis care and is stabilized, they will be admitted to our observation unit, where they will have access to food, drinks, entertainment and loungers for sleeping. Our mental health professionals will provide them with a care plan and begin treatment, which may include medication, coping skills development and peer counseling. From there, patients are either discharged home or transitioned to a more intense level of care—usually in less than 24 hours.

Before leaving MIND 24-7, our mental health professionals provide patients with clear instructions, which may include follow-up appointments, a medication plan and contacts for additional assistance.To get mental health care in minutes, visit one of our convenient locations or text/call 1-844-MIND247.