It is estimated that as many as 1 out of 5 children has a behavioral health disorder. Early diagnosis and access to care are extremely important and can make a difference in the lives of these children, their families, and society.
But there are not enough child and adolescent psychiatrists to treat the many children affected. In addition, children in poor and underserved neighborhoods often can’t afford mental health care or their insurance doesn’t cover it.
“Many children are being diagnosed and treated by their primary care provider, but most pediatricians say they do not have sufficient training to diagnose and treat these children,” said Dr. Daniel Castellanos, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (HWCOM). “We want to help bridge the gap between primary care and behavioral health.”
Over the next five years, mental health experts from HWCOM, working with the Florida Department of Health, will consult and help train local pediatricians as part of the statewide Behavioral Health Integration Initiative.
The $1.4 million initiative also provides for telehealth encounters between HWCOM faculty experts and South Florida pediatricians.
“We will provide psychiatric and clinical guidance, including medication management for these pediatricians who are treating children with mental health issues,” Castellanos said.
Due to the shortage of psychiatrists, getting an appointment can often take weeks. A key component of the integration initiative is to improve access to care. HWCOM will address this by facilitating referrals for those children who need to be seen by a specialist in a timely manner.