In our last mental health blog, we discussed some of the biggest concerns we have today regarding the mental health and well-being of our children, and the solutions that can be implemented and the local level to improve access to vital youth mental health services.
Some of the solutions that our experts, Dr. Karen Goldberg, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, and Dr. Alan Mease, a Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Specialist, pointed out include better training and education, more utilization of Telepsychiatry/Telehealth, as well as increased, system-wide collaboration between the different levels of care.
Now that these practical solutions have been identified, how do we effectively implement them in our local communities? Further, what role do parents and schools play? How can the community as a whole help? How and when should primary care providers be integrated into the overall, holistic approach?
According to Dr. Goldberg, it’s paramount that we reach kids where they are. That means going into community health centers and into schools to ensure that kids have access to mental health screenings. But it is also essential that we bring in parents, caregivers, and families, as well.
Dr. Goldberg says that the key to success here is communication between the different levels of care—including school mental health, outside practitioners/community mental health, and primary care providers (PCPs). Without this, you end up with a very disjointed approach to care, which can ultimately lead to kids falling through the cracks of the system.
Dr. Mease points out that, while reaching kids early, getting into the schools, and involving the parents/families is critical, there are a number of highly effective community programs and resources that can be utilized well before school even begins—such as the WIC program.
In Arkansas, for example, each community has a local health unit where WIC services are available. With this approach, the first thing a new mother can do is go to the WIC clinic to access valuable preventative services. It is often in these community clinics that the first signs of mental health issues are identified. This is especially prevalent in rural communities that may not have the more robust resources that are available in more urban areas.
Working in conjunction with the Pediatrician/PCP, and eventually school mental health services who can continue the work, these vital community resources are fundamental to recognizing and beginning the treatment of cognitive impairments in our youth.
Ensuring access to the early intervention programs is critical. That said, it’s JUST as important that mental health services are available for those children who may not have the benefit of this early access. This is why getting into the schools so crucial.
So often there is a gap that develops between the different levels of care. And this gap can be detrimental to the mental health and well-being of the kids who truly need help the most.
Both Dr. Goldberg and Dr. Mease wholeheartedly agree that building bridges between early intervention, PCPs and other school/and community services—and ensuring that communities have the motivation and necessary financial and educational resources in place to maintain them long-term—is the best thing we can do for our kids today.
Click below to hear the full discussion!
Listen to the Podcast, “The Kids Are Not Alright” Part III