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Children's Wisconsin youth walk-in clinic manager reflects on impact, growth as it celebrates first anniversary

Craig Yabuki Mental Health Walk-In Clinic
Children's Wisconsin
The entrance to the Craig Yabuki Mental Health Walk-In Clinic.

Today marks one year since the Craig Yabuki Mental Health Walk-In Clinic opened. It’s located on the Children’s Wisconsin Milwaukee campus and it’s the first of its kind clinic in the state. Licensed therapists, social workers and clinic assistants are available seven days a week to give same-day care for children ages five to 18. So far, they’ve had over 950 visits from patients in the Milwaukee area.

Clinic manager Tammy Makhlouf says the program is making a positive impact on youth mental health in Milwaukee. "Prior to the clinic opening, many of the kids that come into the clinic would be seen in the emergency room. And so this is a level of care that they can come in and not have to have the long waits in the [emergency] waiting room ... if they're here at the walk in clinic, we can also give them those resources. We assess safety and then we can also have a counseling session with them."

Makhlouf notes that the clinic serves any child that is experiencing a mental health crisis, and that only the child and their family or guardian can determine if it's a crisis or not. The clinic does not define what circumstances are significant enough to receive care, but Makhlouf understands that there can be some ambiguity in terms of what would constitute being considered a mental health crisis. So, she offers these possible indicators: "If there's a change in behavior, if they're worried about something, if a child expresses any type of safety concerns, if they express wanting to hurt themselves, wanting to hurt somebody else, then that child is saying that they need some more help and support and so I would bring them in."

General guidance for when to bring in a child to the clinic include new or worsening symptoms of feelings of anxiety, stress, panic attacks, trouble focusing, loss of appetite, feelings of isolation, mood disorders, hyperactivity or attention issues, lack of interest in family or social activities, school avoidance, bullying and difficulty sleeping.

Children's Wisconsin
Tammy Makhlouf is the manager of the Craig Yabuki Mental Health Walk-In Clinic

Maklouf also notes that there's a difference between a crisis and an emergency, and when it's appropriate for the clinic staff to refer a child elsewhere. "If a child is actively suicidal, like maybe they have taken, are taking extra medication, then they need to go to the [emergency department]. ... We are not a medical facility, we do not have any medical staff. We are all mental health clinicians so if there is a medical need, they would need to go to either the emergency department or urgent care."

The clinic also cannot distribute or make changes to a child's medication or provide any lab services.

The clinic typically treats patients that are experiencing anxiety and panic attacks and the average age of a patient is 12 years old, according to Makhlouf. She believes that the stresses of middle school combined with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic attribute to these statistics. The clinic has been doing well in providing adequate levels of care to their patients and only 5% have needed continued and higher levels of care elsewhere, she says.

While Makhlouf would like to see the clinic grow to include medical professionals and eventually a larger facility, she is encouraged by the current operations and the willingness of families to talk more openly about mental health care.

"It's really nice when you have a family come through and you see them in crisis and you're able to provide them education. You're able to provide them support and help them navigate the system and by the time they leave there, you can see less stress on them," she says.

If you or someone you know is in need of professional youth mental health support, the clinic is located at 9000 W. Wisconsin Ave., Suite 240, Milwaukee, WI, 53226 and is open 3 to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week. No appointment is necessary, but you can reserve a spot online.


Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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