BOSTON – As October is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month, Beacon Health Options (Beacon), the nation’s premier behavioral health company, wants to highlight the important role primary care providers (PCPs) play in behavioral health screening – especially for children.
Access to behavioral health care is essential to achieving good health outcomes, and PCPs play a critical role in identifying and treating mental health conditions in children. According to a MassGeneral Hospital for Children study published this month in the journal Pediatrics, PCPs treat one third of all children nationwide with mental health conditions, including ADHD, depression, anxiety, autism spectrum disorders and other mental health issues.
In 2004, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership launched the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project (MCPAP). As featured in the December 2014 edition of Health Affairs, the program has helped to improve access to treatment for children with behavioral health needs by providing education and psychiatric consultations – including help with mental health screenings – free-of-charge to all PCPs statewide. Employing six regional consultation teams, PCPs can connect with child mental health specialists, such as child psychiatrists, therapists and care coordinators, during a patient appointment. Doing so enables the PCP to get assistance in diagnosing and treating a child’s mental health condition in real time.
“The Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Project, also known as MCPAP, is based on a public health model that emphasizes universal screening, ensures access to services in the appropriate setting based on need, and mitigates the dearth of available child psychiatry resources,” said Dr. John Straus, founding Director of MCPAP and Medical Director, Special Projects for the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership, a Beacon Health Options company. “MCPAP’s regional teams help to educate primary care physicians in order to build increased behavioral health capacity in the primary care office.”
As a result of MCPAP’s success, similar programs have been launched in 30 states, including one in Connecticut. ACCESS-MH CT (Access to all of Connecticut’s Children of Every Socioeconomic Status – Mental Health CT) has most of the same program services as MCPAP. Additionally, it includes family peer specialists – people with lived mental health experience – who can help parents navigate the health care system.
To learn what is happening nationwide with child psychiatry access programs, visit the National Network of Child Psychiatry Access Programs.