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New Valley mental health clinic fills void

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SNOQUALMIE - Like many primary health providers, Family Nurse Practitioner Patricia Yetneberk is usually the first person many of her patients see when they have a concern about mental health. And like many primary health providers, Yetneberk has had to send her patients out of the Valley to get the care they needed.

"I see 50 people a week that need referrals to mental health providers," she said.

Not anymore. Seattle Mental Health (SMH), a Seattle-based mental health services organization with a 30-year history, has opened an office in the Valley, filling a void for care.

Yetneberk, who runs the Kimball Creek Medical Center, heard about SMH at a function for the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital, where she sometimes works in a senior behavioral health clinic located there. She knew that mental health services had not been completely absent in the Valley. Jackie Hook, a SMH clinician, had been seeing patients at St. Claire Episcopal Church in Snoqualmie, but her accessibility was limited since she came only once a week. At the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital meeting, Yetneberk met SMH Clinician Amy Decker and lobbied for more mental health services in the Valley. She made a strong case.

"She [Yetneberk] said 'We really need mental health services,' and we started talking about a space for it and how we could work it out," Decker said. "We always wanted to reach out [to the Valley]."

SMH set up shop in Yetneberk's Kimball Creek Medical Center office, which is located next to the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital campus, and the organization now wants to offer a range of services to the Valley. Clinicians, including Hook, who specialize in different illnesses, will come out to see patients and talk with them about treatment options after they have set up an appointment with the SMH main office.

Mental illness can be far-reaching and varied, from depression to children suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome. Through a combination of therapy and medication, Hook said people can become more independent of their illness. Different illnesses call for different treatments, and sometimes simple tasks such as making a list to help organize a scattered mind or giving a family member an intentional hug to repair a damaged relationship can be all the treatment needed.

For more acute illnesses, medication may be used in conjunction with therapy. Since illnesses can have physiological causes, Hook said medication may bring patients a long way toward recovery.

"It's [mental illness] a chemical imbalance," Hook said.

To Yetneberk, it all comes back to the overall health of her patients, which is foremost in her mind. She said the medical community has long known the effect that mental health can have on the overall well-being of a patient and having care in the Valley is an important step to offering the full-coverage health care people deserve.

* Seattle Mental Health's Snoqualmie clinic is located at Kimball Creek Medical Center at 9450 Ethan Wade Way S.E., Suite B, Snoqualmie. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays; 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays; and flexible hours on Fridays. Those interested in services are invited to call SMH's main line in Seattle first at (206) 324-2400.

Ben Cape can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at ben.cape@valleyrecord.com.

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