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Mental Health Screening Kiosks Debut in Montco

In a hallway at the Ambler Area YMCA, between the locker rooms and an exercise studio, is a new tool designed to make it easier for people to assess their mental well-being.

The MindKare kiosk is a freestanding computer station with an interactive display screen that provides users with a quick and easy way to check on their mental and behavioral health. The kiosk asks users to take an online self-assessment, and provides information on mental and behavioral health conditions along with resources for local treatment options. The kiosk screens for conditions such as anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

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The MindKare Behavioral Health Kiosk at the Ambler Area YMCA.

The HealthSpark Foundation, which formerly operated as the North Penn Community Health Foundation based in Colmar, Pa., is providing about $60,000 for the purchase, installation and related training for MindKare kiosks at five locations in Montgomery County. HealthSpark launched the initiative in a partnership with Screening for Mental Health Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Wellesley Hills, Mass., and the Philadelphia-based Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation.

Russell Johnson, Spark Foundation’s president and CEO, said too often health assessment by primary-care doctors focuses on the neck down.

“There another part of the body that needs attention as well,” he said. “We know that early intervention for mental and behavioral health disorders is critical.”

Two years ago, the Scattergood Foundation sponsored a contest seeking ideas for making mental health-care education or access available at retail health clinics. The winning entry was a kiosk screening tool developed by the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services in a partnership with Screening for Mental Health Inc., a pioneer in the field of large-scale mental health screening for the public.

The organizations placed their first kiosk in a Northeast Philadelphia supermarket two summers ago.
Candice Porter, executive director of Screening for Mental Health, said the addition of the five Montgomery County kiosks brings the total number of kiosks in place or in the works to to 60 across six states.
“You can walk into a drug store and get a blood pressure screening,” Porter said. “Why not a mental health screening?”

The idea behind placing kiosks in public locations is to reduce the stigma associated with discussing mental health and making evaluating behavioral health as commonplace as checking blood pressure. Health experts estimate one in four adults, or about 61.5 million Americans, experience mental illness in a given year — but 70 percent of those individuals often don’t seek treatment.

In addition to the Ambler Area YMCA in Lower Gwynedd, kiosks are also now available at:

  • Manna on Main Street in Lansdale,
  • Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell,
  • Einstein Physicians Collegeville in Collegeville, and
  • Norristown Regional Health Center in Norristown.

Additionally, Montgomery County Community Connections will be offering an alternative to the free-standing kiosk for on-line screenings at its locations in Norristown, Lansdale, Willow Grove and Pottstown.