Original Newsletter Article from The Riveter
Tuesday, October 24
Today, we’ll share the story of another amazing AARP Purpose Prize winner: Dr. Peter Jensen, the founder of the REACH Institute.
Every parent out there will want to read about his incredible work.
This message is sponsored by AARP.
We don’t often have a chance to hear the stories of older Americans doing big things. But we’ve been lucky this month to tell you about AARP’s Purpose Prize Award doing just that, and today we want to share the story of another 2024 winner and “doer of big things”: Peter Jensen, MD.
Peter is the founder of The REACH Institute, a non-profit built to transform mental health services for children and adults by empowering providers to care for their patients. The REACH Institute trains primary-care providers, therapists and other professionals to diagnose and treat mental health issues effectively.
What’s in the name? REACH stands for “REsource for Advancing Children’s Health”—and this is the very mission of the organization. REACH aims to transform U.S. child mental health services by training health care providers in applying and integrating evidence-based treatments, quality improvements and feedback methods.
Why do we need the REACH Institute? Approximately 1 in 5 children ages 3 to 17 in the United States has a mental health condition according to a Johns Hopkins study, but the CDC notes less than 30% of them get the help they need for it. While it may not be on your radar, there is a desperate shortage of trained providers who can provide mental health services in the United States. But every pediatric primary-care provider that REACH trains may go on to help as many as 250 children a year with mental health issues.
How is REACH taking on the problem? REACH teaches doctors how to assess, diagnose and treat mental health problems so they can deliver high-level mental health services. Since it began, the institute has trained more than 6,000 pediatricians and other primary-care physicians in all 50 states to be “first responders” to children with mental health needs.
Peter explains that REACH serves as the agent to “disseminate and deliver” evidence-based training to doctors. REACH takes the best scientific findings and uses this information to train doctors and other professionals in the best mental health treatments. They will support doctors anywhere and everywhere to use these methods.
Why is Peter taking on the issue? Before starting REACH, Peter was a child and adolescent psychiatrist—and spent nearly 10 years at the National Institute of Mental Health doing large-scale clinical trials that were aimed at improving clinical practices for children’s mental health problems. But he learned that it can take an average of seventeen years for research-based evidence to become incorporated into clinical practice. At REACH, Peter moves more quickly and aims to close the gap between the latest science and what’s offered in clinical practice to just one to two years.
Peter also deeply understands the children he is trying to help. He lost two of his seven siblings at a young age, which had a big role in shaping him and made him interested in psychology and mental health.
I wish people knew they are often getting outdated medical care,” Peter shares with us. “I wish every parent knew about this gap and could say, ‘I want the latest in evidence-based care. How do I get it?’ I’ve become a real believer in the power of advocacy.”
Peter adds something that we should all hear, too: “There are so many needs communities have. Find what excites you, because it’s going to take time and effort to address. The reward is worth it. What’s great about giving back after age 50 is that you can pick what you’re passionate about.”