Thursday, January 15, 2015

Telephone Consultation Improves Care of Children's Mental Health in Primary Care, Study Finds

Pediatric primary care providers in Massachusetts reported a dramatic improvement in their ability to meet their patients' psychiatric needs because of a project to provide telephone child psychiatry consultations and specialized care coordination to primary care providers.

The Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project is described in a report in Health Affairs, by John Strauss, M.D., director for special projects at Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership, a ValueOptions company in Boston, and Barry Sarvet, M.D., chief of child psychiatry and vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Baystate Health in Springfield.

Beginning as a pilot project at the University of Massachusetts, the project received legislative approval in June 2004 to be administered by the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership. The project consists of six regional hubs, each with one full-time-equivalent child psychiatrist, licensed therapist, and care coordinator. Collectively, the hubs are available to over 95 percent of the children in Massachusetts. In fiscal year 2013 the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project served 10,553 children.

“Access to behavioral health care for children is essential to achieving good health care outcomes,” Strauss and Sarvet said. "Pediatric primary care providers have an essential role to play in identifying and treating behavioral health problems in children. However, they lack adequate training and resources and thus have generally been unable to meet children’s need for behavioral health care.....Telephone child psychiatry consultation programs for pediatric primary care providers, many modeled after the Massachusetts project, have spread across the United States."

The website for the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project is here. For information about a similar project in New York, see the Psychiatric News article, "New York Child Psychiatry Divisions Fill Gap in Collaborative Care Model."

(image: Lisa F. Young/Shutterstock)


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