City of Philadelphia, mental health orgs to pilot screening kiosks in grocery store

By Aditi Pai
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mental health kioskThe Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation, Screening for Mental Health (SMH), and Family Practice and Counseling Network (FPCN) launched a pilot to test the effectiveness of a mental health kiosk in a Philadelphia ShopRite.

The kiosk offers users a tablet on which they answer survey questions about their mental state, but it doesn't take biometric readings.

The pilot will run for six months in one ShopRite location, but if the pilot is successful, Department of Behavioral Health Assistant Director of Communications Kimberly Rymsha said they will add kiosks to more ShopRite locations.

The organizers placed this kiosk next to the blood pressure kiosk outside ShopRite's primary care center.

"What happens when you go into the kiosk is it will say, 'Are you interested in taking a behavioral health assessment?' and it'll remind you that this is not a diagnosis, it's not an intended substitute for professional advice, diagnosis and treatment," Department of Behavioral Health Special Advisor to the Commissioner for Policy Development and Research Samantha Matlin told MobiHealthNews. "But it's really a way to take an initial step to see if you may be experiencing symptoms consistent with behavioral health diagnoses."

The kiosk prompts users to choose a mental health condition they want to screen for including depression, alcohol abuse, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, anxiety disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder. Users can also answer more general questions about how they are feeling and their recent behavior (like alcohol consumption), and the kiosk can prompt a screening for disorders based on that information.

"Depending on your responses, it could suggest that you take another screening, so for instance if you take the depression screener and you indicate that you're feeling high and low, it will recommend you take bipolar screening as well," Matlin said. "And it's a way to have people to take shorter screenings so that they're not taking everything all at once."

Users also have the option to enter in demographic information before they take the screening. Demographics include age, gender, partnership status, race, ethnicity group, and whether or not they've had behavioral health treatment in the past. When users are finished with the survey, the kiosk provides them with resources to seek additional help, including 24-hour hotlines, like a suicide prevention line, peer support lines, family support lines, in addition to a link to a website that has all the behavioral health treatment providers in the city.

If users do not want to take the survey in the store, they are given a link, which they can use to take the survey at home.

Matlin also emphasizes the screenings are not only intended for people who think they have a mental health condition, but also for the general public.

"What we've experienced when we've held screenings events in person is that some people will say, 'Oh yeah I have been feeling kind of off, maybe I should take this,'" Matlin said. "So the idea is that anyone can take this. It doesn't need to be that you have a specific problem, in the same way that a blood pressure machine wouldn't [target] just people who have high blood pressure. It's checking in to see what is going on."

Matlin hopes that this pilot will also serve as a model and roadmap for other cities that want to open a mental health kiosk in a retail clinic.