Many patients who have mental health conditions need talk therapy in addition to the treatment you provide as the pediatric primary care provider (PCP). If you practice in an area where therapists are available, we hope you have developed referral relationships, as you learned in your REACH training. You may also see patients who are already working with a therapist.
In either case, the communication between you and the therapist makes a huge difference in the quality of care the two of you provide.
To learn how PCPs and therapists can collaborate to improve the mental health of children and adolescents, we talked with clinical psychologist Kevin Stark, PhD, a founder of The REACH Institute’s CATIE program, and pediatrician Hilary Bowers, MD, director of behavioral and mental health services at Children’s Primary Care Medical Group, a large pediatric practice in San Diego and Riverside counties in California.Read more
Discrimination and hate crimes against people of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) descent have risen during the COVID-19 pandemic. You may be wondering how you can help your AAPI patients cope with feelings that arise from experiences of racism.Read more
If you struggle with titrating psychiatric medications for your pediatric patients, you are not alone. Even for some alumni of the REACH program Patient-Centered Mental Health in Pediatric Primary Care, lack of comfort with psychiatric medications can hamper effective treatment.
What does it take to dose and cross-titrate effectively? We asked two REACH faculty members: Peter S. Jensen, MD, REACH founder, and Amy Kryder, MD, education lead of the statewide REACH program in Virginia.Read more
You’re in the consultation room with Anita, who first brought her 15-year-old son Vic to you two weeks ago. Vic has been suspended from school several times for increasingly dangerous behavior. Anita uses a wheelchair because she has multiple sclerosis. Today she is distraught. Last night, she forbade Vic to leave the house, but he went anyway. He didn’t come home last night or go to school this morning. Anita has called everyone she can think of, but no one knows where he is. The police won’t help until he has been missing at least 24 hours. Anita has come to you as a last resort. When you saw Vic, you were troubled by his history of uncontrolled behavior and his uncooperative stance. You were hoping to get him to open up in a follow-up visit. But now Anita is here alone, frantic because she doesn’t know where Vic is. What do you do?Read more
“Families provide a kind of protective membrane for children when crazy things are happening around them,” said William Saltzman, PhD. Dr. Saltzman is a faculty member of the REACH program Child/Adolescent Training in Evidence-Based Psychotherapies. “Families really have been on the front line throughout the pandemic,” Dr. Saltzman said. “It’s been a rollercoaster ride from the beginning, with abrupt school shutdowns; the exhaustion of becoming the 24/7 caregiver, teacher, playmate, and breadwinner; and now having to figure out largely on their own how to navigate the upcoming school year.”Read more
We don’t have to tell you that virtually everyone feels anxious about the spread of COVID-19. An appropriate level of anxiety can be helpful if it inspires people to follow CDC recommendations on hygiene and social distancing. An unnecessary level of anxiety, however, can impair both mental and physical health. Many of your patients and families are suffering from unhealthy anxiety–whether they present with possible COVID-19 symptoms or come in for an unrelated complaint.Read more
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released a new policy and an accompanying technical report on mental health competencies for pediatric clinicians. REACH faculty member Cori Green, MD, MS, is a lead author of both documents. We asked Dr. Green, director of behavioral health education and integration at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, what the AAP policy and technical report mean for alumni of the REACH program Patient-Centered Mental Health in Pediatric Primary Care. “I hope they’ll be excited to see that what is being endorsed by AAP is essentially what they were taught in their REACH training,” Dr. Green said. In the technical report, the REACH course is described as a promising practice in continuing medical education.Read more
“It’s not just that we’re more aware of adolescent suicide,” said Michael Scharf, MD, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center and a REACH faculty member. “The rate really is going up. Teen suicide is still rare, but it’s increasing.” Primary care providers (PCPs) can help teens at risk of suicide, first of all, by being willing to talk about it. “Some people think that asking about suicidal ideation makes the kid more likely to act,” said Dr. Scharf. “But evidence shows that asking either has no impact or has a relieving effect; it frees the patient to talk about the issue.” “You need to think ahead of time of what to ask and how, so you feel comfortable,” said Dr. Scharf. “You need a go-to way to assess risk and how likely the kid is to follow through.” (See Resources below.) The assessment results can range from “nothing to do here” to “send this kid to the emergency department.” “The tricky part,” Dr. Scharf said, “is what to do in between.”Read more
“Mental health flows in both directions, not just downhill from parent to child,” said Peter S. Jensen, MD, founder and board chair of The REACH Institute. The effects on children when caregivers suffer from mental health problems are well documented (see Resources below). Another pattern is that parents and children can share an inherited tendency toward the same disorder. Furthermore, a child’s struggles can trigger disorders such as depression or anxiety in a caregiver. “Blaming parents for their children’s mental health issues is not only a tactical mistake,” said Dr. Jensen, “it’s also simply incorrect.” Pediatric practitioners have to tread carefully when they suspect that the caregiver of a child they are treating has mental health issues.Read more
Some pediatric primary care providers (PCPs) are nervous about providing mental health services because they are not sure they can be paid. However much they may want to treat patients with mental health disorders, they can’t afford to practice for free! Evaluation and management of mental health conditions is time-intensive. PCPs wonder, “How can I spend 90 minutes doing intake?” Those who work in large healthcare systems worry about the WRVUs (work relative value units) by which their productivity is judged. Providers in small practices worry about getting paid for visits that involve primarily talk. “Primary care providers absolutely can be paid for mental health care,” said Dr. Eugene Hershorin, a coding expert in the Pediatric Department in the University of Miami Health System and a REACH Institute faculty member.Read more