First Person Perspective

A Helping Hand: Psychiatric Urgent Care


For the last year, we’ve seen people trying to manage their mental health concerns at home. Now, we are seeing the months of stress and anxiety coming to a head as this health crisis wave is exploding. Visits to the emergency room (ER) for patients seeking help for overdoses and suicide attempts rose 36 percent and 26 percent, respectively, between mid-March and mid-October of 2020, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. 

Imagine that your loved one is experiencing a psychiatric emergency. Perhaps they are experiencing irrational thoughts. Or maybe they are considering self-harm. Where do you turn? For most people, the answer is their local hospital’s ER. In fact, according to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, 1 out of every 8 ER visits in the U.S. is due to a psychiatric concern.

This usually is not the best option for patients in psychiatric distress. An emergency room has the broad task of catering to all medical emergencies in a geographic location. The ER also cares for individuals in non-urgent situations, becoming a de facto primary care office. The waiting rooms can be hectic, bright, loud, and crowded, which can overwhelm an individual in psychiatric distress. Further, there is often no clear communication about how long someone must wait before they can see a provider—making an ER not an ideal scenario for a patient in the midst of a mental health crisis. 

Now more than ever, there is a critical need for increased access to psychiatric care. At Sheppard Pratt, specialized psychiatric care is what sets us apart. Patients in distress can arrive in person at our Psychiatric Urgent Care in Towson or at our Baltimore/Washington Campus, or access our Virtual Psychiatric Urgent Care online. Patients and their families receive a psychiatric assessment and triage by a clinician. Once assessed, they are referred to the appropriate level of care they need—whether it be inpatient admission, a day treatment program, or outpatient care for ongoing therapy and medication management. 

Through Psychiatric Urgent Care, we can help people avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital ER and provide greater access to mental health services to support some of our most vulnerable populations. 

24/7 Mobile Help for a Crisis

Frederick County residents who are at risk of harming themselves or others now have access to the Crisis Response Team, a mental health co-responder program. This innovative partnership between Sheppard Pratt and the City of Frederick emergency responders allows for a multidisciplinary response in a way that recognizes mental health crises as a health concern. 

If you or a loved one need urgent mental health care, call 410-938-5302, or access the Virtual Psychiatric Urgent Care online at, or visit one of Sheppard Pratt’s Urgent Care locations.

Featured Expert

  • Deepak Prabhakar, MD, MPH

    Chief of Medical Staff; Medical Director, Outpatient Services
    Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Traumatic Brain Injury, Concussion, Public Health, Sports Psychiatry, Suicide Prevention