AR-Connect Provides for Urgent Behavioral Health Needs

By Tim Taylor

Imagine this scenario. A man living out of state returns to his Arkansas home to run errands for his aging parents, thus helping protect them from exposure to the virus. Before moving home, his bipolar disorder was well managed with medication and a balanced routine.

All of this has been disrupted. His prescriptions are running low and his out-of-state prescriber wants to see him face-to-face and have him complete important lab work. Clinics in his parents’ area have a two-to-three-month waiting list to establish care.

Urgent care is vital for those with mental health or substance abuse issues to maintain their stability or sobriety. That is where UAMS AR-Connect comes in.

AR-Connect, overseen by the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute, is a round-the-clock service offered to all Arkansans in need of urgent behavioral health care regardless of whether they have insurance or the ability to pay. Whether it’s medication management or psychotherapy, all it takes is a phone call.

The AR-Connect call center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 501-526-3563 or toll-free at 800-482-9921. The caller is evaluated by a nurse triage team and, if needed, contacted by another medical professional within 24 business hours. To maintain social distancing, the contact will either be by phone or live video, depending on the patient’s preference. The virtual clinic operates Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We’re trying to help people maintain the important improvements they have made in their lives with mental health care, such as embracing sobriety, or perhaps access care for the first-time ever as the pandemic has brought new stress and anxiety into their lives. Maybe it’s because of COVID-19, or maybe it’s a problem they’ve had for some time but never had the opportunity to get help with,” said Kevin Navin, the institute’s director of outpatient programs.

“Our goal is find a way to help them get the assistance they need, to maintain their stable path, maintain their close relationships, and promote wellness in an unpredictable environment.”

AR-Connect’s clinical team has been trained to recognize the needs of those dealing with mental issues, whether they are a single parent struggling to support their family or a medical professional on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

By calling the AR-Connect call center, the caller is evaluated by a nurse triage team and, if needed, contacted by a medical professional within 24 business hours. For the purposes of respecting social distancing and swiftness, the medical professional will contact the patient either by phone or by video, depending on the patient’s preference.

“The AR-Connect team will explore a number of short-term options and eventually help the patient find the assistance they need in their own community,” said G. Richard Smith, M.D., institute director and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry in the UAMS College of Medicine. “We know the effect that something like COVID-19 can have on psychiatric patients and we will do our best to accommodate everyone in need during this stressful time.”

For more information, contact AR-Connect at