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U.S. Senators And Mental Health Experts Rise To The Challenge Of Expanding Access To Teen Mental Health Services At U.S. Capitol Forum

The TeenScreen National Center for Mental Health Checkups at Columbia University convened the 2011 Eric Trendell Health Policy Forum.


WASHINGTON, DC – The TeenScreen National Center at Columbia University convened the third annual Eric Trendell Health Policy Forum at the U.S. Capitol this week.  Bringing together a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and experts in teen mental health from throughout the country, the lively discussion delivered on the Forum’s title: “Bridging the Gap through Innovation: Expanding Access to Adolescent Mental Health Services.”
In opening remarks, Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) said, “I’m proud to support the cause of improving mental health services for our children and teens. From my own childhood, I recognize how critical it is to help our youth weather the tough circumstances that can come early in life.”
Amplifying this view, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) said in his opening remarks, “We have a moral obligation to help young people from every background and ethnicity with the support they need to overcome and deal with depression and suicidal tendencies.”
Introducing the distinguished panel of physicians, healthcare administrators, and federal policymakers, TeenScreen National Center Executive Director, Laurie Flynn, said: “This is a big challenge.  There are no easy answers. Happily, there is a lot of exciting innovation occurring in our field and we’ve gathered today experts in the field from throughout the country who are passionate about this topic.”
“The movement to integrate behavioral health into primary care brings a vital benefit to adolescents,” Flynn continued. “We know that up to half of all visits to pediatricians involve a behavioral, emotional or mental health issue.  We also know that half of all mental disorders begin by age fourteen. Innovative, integrated care models have demonstrated that we can expand mental health care to youth, bringing this vital service to their medical homes.”
Panelists detailed their unique experiences with leading innovations such as collocated care; telepsychiatry; fostering collaboration between primary care physicians and child psychiatrists; the development of patient-centered medical homes; and the adoption of health information technology.
“Integrating behavioral health into primary care is a game changer,” said Dr. A. Seiji Hayashi.
“Our patient population includes adolescents who may be uninsured, on Medicaid, homeless or barely living above the poverty line.  Having primary care doctors and psychiatrists working together is essential in caring for teens in crisis,” said Greg Jensen, LCSW, ACSW
Describing how he and his colleagues in Massachusetts have filled the service gap through the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project (MCPAP), Dr. David Keller said, “We have six centers throughout Massachusetts led by a psychiatrist and each linked to an academic health center.  Through MCPAP, individual pediatricians and primary care doctors are able to enhance and leverage their services within the context of a medical home. In many areas, the choice is between a well-trained pediatrician or nobody,” said Dr. Keller.  Primary care providers are assured of a telephone consultation with a child psychiatrist about a specific patient, usually within an hour, or immediately, if the situation demands.  Dr. Keller said that 26 other states are exploring setting up this system to meet the growing demand for mental health care for children and adolescents.
Dr. Steven Adelsheim described bringing mental health care to adolescents in rural and frontier counties in New Mexico.  “Twenty percent of teens who have a mental illness go untreated.  That is not acceptable. Telepsychiatry or child psychiatric health by video brings care where there is nothing else,” he said.  “There is a critical lack of resources in the Native American community to deal with the tragic growth of suicide,” Dr. Adelsheim said. “Our collaboration with the Indian Health Service and tribal leaders, enhanced by telepsychiatry, is vital to stemming this trend.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is working to strengthen the Medicaid and Medicare programs by looking to innovative forms of service delivery. Barbara Edwards said,  “The models of integrated care discussed today present important ways forward as we look to design and support methods of bringing health and mental health care to children.”
The 2011 Eric Trendell Health Policy Forum distinguished panel comprised:
Greg V. Jensen, LCSW, ACSW - Vice President for Behavioral Health Services at Lone Star Circle of Care
Steven Adelsheim, MD – Director, Center for Rural and Community Behavioral Health and Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics, & Family/Community Medicine at the University of New Mexico, Department of Psychiatry
David Keller, MD - Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Senior Analyst, Center for Health Policy and Research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School
A. Seiji Hayashi, MD, MPH - Chief Medical Officer, Bureau of Primary Health Care at the Health Resources and Services Administration
Barbara Edwards - Director, Disabled and Elderly Health Programs Group, Center for Medicaid, CHIP and Survey and Certification at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
To view videos of remarks by the panelists, please visit:
The TeenScreen National Center for Mental Health Checkups at Columbia University is a non-profit public health initiative and national policy and resource center devoted to increasing youth access to regular mental health checkups. The TeenScreen National Center is affiliated with the Columbia University Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The National Center provides free tools for physicians and school professionals and supports screening efforts at more than 1,325 communities in 45 states through its TeenScreen Primary Care and TeenScreen Schools and Communities programs.


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 health policy

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