Ashley Clinic comes to Iola

Ashley Clinic is opening a new clinic in Iola, served by Dr. Tim Spears, along with urologist Dr. Jason Robinson and others from The Family Physicians group. The focus of the new clinic is to provide services for both physical and mental health needs.

By

Local News

February 19, 2024 - 3:07 PM

Dr. Tim Spears, from left, Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center director Nathan Fawson and Ashley Clinic’s Lisa Engleman announce the opening of Ashley Clinic Iola at 401 S. Washington Ave.

A new Ashley Clinic Iola office aimed at providing both physical and mental health services will bring familiar physicians and staff.

Dr. Tim Spears and others from Iola’s Family Physicians group will staff the new clinic at 401 S. Washington Ave., the site of a former health clinic. 

The goal of the new clinic is to provide “whole-person care,” an approach touted by Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center, director Nathan Fawson said. SEKMHC purchased the Chanute-based Ashley Clinic last summer and introduced the integrated care model there in September with positive results.

Urologist Dr. J. Jason Robinson also will be based at the Iola clinic and will begin seeing patients Wednesday; Spears starts March 4.

FAWSON AND Spears first worked together more than 25 years ago. 

Fawson began working for SEKMHC in 1997 as a crisis intervention therapist. As part of his duties, he assessed Spears’s patients for mental health care. The health care system at the time was shifting. Up through the 1990s, physicians had the authority to evaluate and admit patients to the state hospital. That responsibility was then delegated to the local community mental health center, which meant Spears and Fawson worked together to determine what was best for patients. 

Over time, both came to appreciate the value of an integrated approach. 

“As a therapist, I had a variety of community-based, therapeutic and psychiatric resources available to his patients that he might not have known about,” Fawson said. “In a way, he was shifting that responsibility and that opportunity for his patient to me, with the overriding goal that I would assess their needs and wrap community-based services around them to keep them home.”

The benefits of that approach have become more clear over time, both Spears and Fawson said. They now realize how mental health affects physical health, while physical health problems also can increase the risk of developing mental illnesses. 

The Centers for Disease Control estimates one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. 

“In family medicine, we treat the whole patient. Mental health is important because someone may present with physical problems that are actually brought on by depression, for example,” Spears said. “It’s nice to have the support because, unfortunately, we don’t always have the time to devote to those needs.” 

In a traditional health setting, doctors will make recommendations, encouraging patients to schedule a mental health evaluation. A lot of times, that patient doesn’t follow through. 

But with integrated care, patients can immediately schedule an evaluation before they leave the office. 

“They may have fears or barriers such as travel and distance,” Fawson said. “Our goal is to eliminate those barriers, so if Dr. Spears is trying to support a patient through their mental health needs, he has a therapist down the hall rather than across town in an unfamiliar facility.”

It also helps eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health care, Spears added. Particularly in a small town, some patients may feel uncomfortable walking into a mental health center. They may feel more at ease seeking treatment at the health clinic. 

An integrated approach has a far-reaching effect, Spears noted.

“When you’re able to help someone with their mental health issues, you’re actually treating the whole family unit. It has a ripple effect,” he said.

“Ashley Clinic is going to bring a lot more resources to me and my patients. I’m really excited.”

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