Work continues on Citizen Advocates’ new mental health urgent care in Watertown

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WATERTOWN — Construction continues on Citizen Advocates’ mental health urgent care facility on State Street at the site of the former Great American grocery store.

Founded in 1975, Citizen Advocates first served as a work program for people in need of developmental and behavioral health support and has since grown to encompass many more community services.

The new Watertown location will be the latest in a string of similar facilities opened by Citizen Advocates across the north country. While this will be its first facility in Jefferson County, the company has maintained a presence in Franklin, St. Lawrence, Clinton, Essex and Hamilton counties. In April, the latest mental health urgent care opened in Ogdensburg. Officials broke ground Aug. 30 on another behavioral health urgent care center in Malone.

“When I’m talking to friends and family about what Citizen Advocates does, I refer to Citizen Advocates as a whole health integrated service provider,” Citizen Advocates CEO James D. Button said. “We provide quality clinical care, and that is behavioral health, mental health, addictions treatment and services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. But then we’ll get into any line of business, any programming that really helps people thrive in the community, because we recognize at Citizen Advocates that quality clinical care will only get you so far. In fact, a person’s road to recovery starts in a clinical setting, but their outcomes are very much determined in the community.”

In addition to clinical services, Citizen Advocates provides transportation, care coordination and supported employment, and also works with housing, food and fuel insecurity, aiming to get out in front of any hurdles, the social determinants of health, that might get in the way of somebody living life meaningfully and with purpose, Mr. Button said.

In Watertown, the 650 State St. facility, purchased by Citizen Advocates on Jan. 20 for $625,000, according to city property records, will provide behavioral health care across a range of categories, including addiction, mental illness, crisis services and disabilities. Work to transform the former grocery store into a state-of-the-art medical clinic will take time, and the company is anticipating an official opening date next spring.

“Citizen advocates has over 120 different programs that are aimed at helping people thrive in the community,” Mr. Button said. “Our comment and the way we explain ourselves to others is if you need surgery, you go to the hospital. If you need anything else, you can come to Citizen Advocates.”

What will be opening in Watertown is one of Citizen Advocates’ 24-hour crisis care clinics, called a BHUC, or behavioral health urgent care. The company recognizes that rock bottom, or people’s desire to change, does not necessarily occur within the confines of the normal business day, Mr. Button said.

In an effort to eliminate hurdles that people traditionally face in accessing appropriate care, people don’t need referrals for Citizen Advocates’ services and there is no wait time — you will be seen if you come in — and you don’t have to make an appointment.

Citizen Advocates is paid for its services just like a doctor’s office is paid. It delivers a service and then charges an insurance company for that service.

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