Posted By Arnav Mathur On February 8, 2022
The COVID 19 pandemic has taken tolls on many people’s mental health, but pediatric mental health has been especially affected. There has been a rising call for policy makers to fund behavioral health integration in children’s primary care clinics. As healthcare providers, you can help with these initiatives by being informed of policy developments and urging your local, state and government agencies to support this funding.
Why is this Funding Needed?
Funding behavioral health integration for children is a topic that has come up only in the last year or so, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has had such a negative impact on pediatric mental health, that the American Academy of Pediatrics has declared a national state of emergency in child and adolescent mental health.
No state in this country has enough children psychiatrists, and some have an extreme shortage.
Even though there has been effective treatment, there is a shortage of child trained behavioral health specialists. Due to this, many children who have psychiatric disorders either receive no treatment, or receive treatment in schools and primary care, where the level of behavioral health expertise is limited.
The state Legislature’s Children and Youth Behavioral Health Work Group wrote and published what they recommend to legislation that began in January 2022. Having funds provided for behavioral health integration at primary care clinics is their top priority.
The funding is meant to train more pediatric healthcare providers in behavioral health services. If pediatricians are able to provide their young patients with proper behavioral health treatment, they are expanding their abilities, and providing a great service that many children need, especially considering the circumstances right now. This funding also can increase the level of expertise of behavioral health, which can be provided at sites other than primary care clinics, such as schools.
How serious is this?
The shortage of pediatric mental health care providers is very serious. According to Boston’s Children’s Hospital, behavioral health disorders are estimated to occur in 15 million children and adolescents in the U.S, and the annual treatment costs approximately $40 billion. And as long as they don’t get the proper treatment that they need (and deserve), this problem is only going to get worse. Child psychiatric disorders can get worse as they get older, and if they’re not treated properly or not treated at all, their social, educational, and economic abilities will suffer quite a bit.
What can pediatricians do?
As a pediatrician, here are some things you can do to help your patients. Push for policies to get funding for these initiatives. Implement training programs in your clinics to support pediatric mental health. Partner with behavioral health professionals in your communities. Consider hiring a behavioral health specialist at your primary care clinic as well.
Funding for pediatric mental health is absolutely necessary if you want to help young children who are suffering from psychiatric issues. The level of expertise will rise among pediatricians, and proper care can be given to your patients. Also, with the proper funding, schools can also hire behavioral health specialists who can give treatment, so the children do not always have to go to a primary care clinic.
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