So what is a free Needs Assessment anyway? By: Lindsay Fiedler, MSE, NCC, Needs Assessment Counselor

In the Needs Assessment Department we are often asked, “So what exactly is a Needs Assessment?”  I was asking this same question just a few months ago as I began my new position as a Needs Assessment Counselor at PrairieCare in Maple Grove.  My hope is that this blog post will aide individuals and families in determining if a Needs Assessment is the appropriate next step for them.

The PrairieCare mission states that we aim to “provide every individual patient the psychiatric care they truly need.”  This statement illustrates the core and foundation of the Needs Assessment process.  I often see our department and the assessment process as a “first ray of hope” for children, adults, and families.  This means that we are able to provide individuals with next steps in gaining skills and finding relief for their mental and emotional health to live the life they want and the life they deserve.  A Needs Assessment provides a recommendation for an appropriate level of care to treat or address a patient’s current mental health struggles.  Because Needs Assessments are a service to the community offered to anyone seeking guidance regarding mental health and treatment options as many as 50% of needs assessments result in referrals to care in other health systems or practices.

A Needs Assessment is a general assessment of functioning in relation to mental health concerns.  The assessment typically lasts about one and a half hours.  We go through a series of questions and gather information regarding past and present struggles as well as current behaviors and symptoms.  This helps your counselor in painting a picture of your concerns as well as wants and needs for care and treatment, but does not provide a complete diagnosis.  At the end of your assessment, you will leave with a plan that the Needs Assessment Counselor and consulting psychiatrist feel is the most appropriate level of care.  This plan may include admission to a program, an appointment with a provider at PrairieCare, or a referral to an appropriate outpatient service such as individual and/or family therapy, psychiatry, psychological evaluations, group therapy, or other treatment programs.  The purpose of this plan is to effectively address current struggles for individuals and to gain support, tools, and skills to manage future stressors or struggles.

Please keep in mind that a free Needs Assessment is different from a psychological evaluation. A psychological evaluation is essentially an in depth evaluation regarding specific set of symptoms.  This is performed by a psychologist or psychiatrist with the express purpose of differentiating a diagnosis.  Whereas a Needs Assessment provides an overview of an individual’s current needs and struggles.  Additionally, a Needs Assessment may refer a patient to a provider that administers psychological evaluations and testing, as well as provide for additional treatment referrals.

If you are interested in scheduling a free assessment or have any questions, please call 888.9.PRAIRIE today.  I am proud to be a part of the PrairieCare team and my colleagues and I look forward to working with you and your family!