Children’s Health Launching New Effort to Combat Mental Health Crisis in Kids – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
If you have a child, chances are the pandemic has taken its toll.
One in three children in Texas develops a mental illness each year. Experts say COVID-19 has worsened that statistic.
And according to Children’s Health – Early in the Pandemic, the proportion of emergency room visits related to mental health increased by 24 percent in children ages 5 to 11 and 31 percent in adolescents ages 12 to 17. The number of pediatric emergency room visits for suicide is now double pre-pandemic levels.
“If you don’t get cancer until it’s stage four. It’s a much harder road for the patient and a lot more treatment involved. The results are less clear-cut and it’s just a bigger burden on the patient and their family. The same goes for mental health issues,” said Brent Christopher, president of the Children’s Medical Center Foundation. “We need to identify these as early as possible and intervene as early as possible so that the problems a child may face can be addressed immediately. They are turned on and, in many cases, stopped before they escalate and grow to a much more serious level.”
Despite these mental health needs being unprecedented, data shows that in Texas there is a 10,000 to 1 ratio between children and adolescents and pediatric psychiatrists.
“It will take many years to continue growing that pipeline and population of those types of specialists,” Christopher said.
Still, nearly 80 percent of pediatric mental illness is mild to moderate and can be treated effectively in primary care, but only if doctors have the right tools and support.
To combat the mental health crisis, Children’s Health is helping to launch a new program to give parents greater access to mental health care for their children through their primary care physician.
“The big question is, where can parents turn? Parents don’t necessarily know how to find a child psychiatrist or some mental health specialist. But oftentimes parents have a trusted pediatrician,” Christopher said. to rely on the support of their community pediatrician. And that is a game changer.”
Earlier in the pandemic, the Children’s Medical Center Foundation made a plea for help to find a solution. In the past year alone, they were able to raise $27 million from community donations.
Now Children’s Health is partnering with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute to use that money to train pediatricians so those doctors can treat children with mild to moderate mental health problems right in the office.
“By providing local doctors with training and concrete support, we can reach children in weeks instead of years, and start helping them and their families as soon as symptoms first appear,” says Andy Keller, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. “Care works best for all medical needs when delivered early. Proactive, early intervention through this pediatric mental health initiative will change the lives of generations of Texans.”
Pediatricians will be able to earn certifications to focus on treating depression, anxiety and substance use and will soon have access to more resources through Children’s Health and beyond, something Christopher says has never happened before.
“That’s not the way we typically approach this problem across the country. We think this could be a new initiative here in North Texas that creates a new model for tackling this incredibly ubiquitous problem for children and families,” he said. †
Christopher added: “How wonderful would it be to be able to knock on that primary care provider and somewhere close to home, and know that they are equipped and knowledgeable about how to help assess their patients’ mental health needs? And offer some of those early entry-level interventions that can make a big difference?”
According to Children’s Health officials, the core of the pediatric mental health initiative will be training delivered online and in person at a primary care clinic for Children’s Health, the first in the country to serve as a learning lab. The center, which will be temporarily housed at the Children’s Health Specialty Center Desoto and eventually relocated to its permanent location in the Reimagine RedBird development, will provide training and advice to community pediatricians, as well as evaluation and treatment of patients requiring special care. need.
Pediatric caregivers have access to computer-based training, peer-to-peer learning communities, and opportunities to track integrated caregivers and receive technical assistance. They can also be linked to additional supports to help them broaden and maintain their integrated mental health care capacity.
“Our children are in a mental health crisis and it’s time to rethink how we can meet their needs as early as possible,” said Dr. Sabrina Browne, a child psychiatrist at Children’s Health and assistant professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Early is always preferable; it increases the likelihood that the suffering will be less and the results will be better. This initiative will enable nearby GP practices, where families normally have regular access to a trusted pediatrician, to identify and address mental health needs. They are critical to providing children with the care they need when they need it.”
This new program is still in the very early planning stage. Currently, Children’s Health is working to reach about 1,000 pediatricians in the North Texas area to get them on board for training. So far, the program will only focus on this area with the potential to expand in the future.
Another next big step is to let families know. The foundation also hopes for more donations to finally reach its $35 million operating budget for this initiative.
“Donors have generously rallied to make this initiative possible,” said Christopher. “As the initiative grows and more doctors in our community are trained, that continued support will remain vital. Donors are encouraged to get in touch for more information about opportunities to improve children’s lives by meeting their mental and behavioral health needs.”