A mental health clinic will open on the outskirts of Whitewater in January, filling what officials say is a great need in rural areas in nearby Jefferson, Rock and Walworth counties.

The Pauquette Center for Psychological Services will be the latest branch of a business that already operates in Baraboo, Columbus, Portage, Prairie du Sac, Madison, Reedsburg and Richland Center.

Its Whitewater clinic will be in Suite 221 of the Whitewater University Innovation Center, 1221 Innovation Drive.

Some in the area are already being referred to Pauquette’s telehealth services, officials said.

Pauquette didn’t do a formal market survey, but Lesley Chapin, company vice president and executive director, said she continually hears about unmet needs in the area.

Chapin, a psychologist, said she met with area health care providers, mostly at UW-Whitewater and Fort HealthCare, as Pauquette considered a Whitewater location, “and the message was just the same, over and over: ‘We need this. We need this so badly.’”

“I know how difficult it is for folks in a lot of places, especially rural areas, to find places that meet their needs that take their insurance and provide affordable options,” Chapin said.

The company, which started in Portage more than 50 years ago, has ties to the Whitewater area. Chapin is from nearby Fort Atkinson. Its president, Thomas Hayes, and director of business operations, Peter Schuster, both are UW-Whitewater graduates.

Clinic staff initially will comprise two psychologists and two licensed clinical social workers, Chapin said. They will offer family therapy and help for problems such as trauma, depression, anxiety and addictions among both children and adults, with individual and group therapy.

Comprehensive dialectical behavior therapy will be offered to people with borderline personality disorder and high-risk behaviors such as suicidal thoughts, eating disorders and drug/alcohol abuse, Chapin said.

City spokeswoman Kristin Mickelson wasn’t aware of any other Whitewater provider that provides the same range of mental-health services, aside from what might be available to students on campus.

Pauquette announced it has signed a seven-year lease. Choosing a space in a business incubator in a technology park might seem an odd choice for a well-established business and Chapin said she initially thought Pauquette would “stick out like a sore thumb,” but she came to embrace the idea.

Pauquette looks for calming settings, scenic views where therapy can take place outdoors and play areas for child clients, and the innovation center offers that, with step-outside access to nature trails, Chapin said.

The innovation center also offers additional common meeting rooms and other indoor spaces that therapists can use, she said.

The clinic comes with the support of the city Community Development Authority and UW-Whitewater.

The university plans to send master’s degree students in social work and counseling education to Pauquette for internships.

Chapin said students will apply for the internships in the spring and start work in August.

Finding clinical internships in the Whitewater area can be difficult, so the partnership can benefit the university and community, said UW-W professor Sarah Hessenauer, as quoted in the news release.

Chapin said the clinic’s services are needed more than ever as people deal with the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic.