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CT Children’s to expand embedded mental health providers in pediatric practices

10 year old 6th grader Khyreem Williams asks “What if that was me one day? What if I got shot?” as U.S. Senator Chris Murphy held a roundtable discussion with Alfred E. Burr Middle School students on youth mental health and ways to improve support services, September 30, 2022.
Joe Amon
Connecticut Public
Sixth grader Khyreem Williams asked, “What if that was me one day? What if I got shot?” during a roundtable discussion held in Hartford by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy with Alfred E. Burr Middle School students on Sept. 30, 2022. They talked about youth mental health and ways to improve support services.

Data shows that more children are presenting at pediatricians’ clinics with psychiatric disorders or with depression and anxiety stemming from a physical disease – like cystic fibrosis or diabetes. In response, Connecticut Children’s is placing behavioral health experts at pediatricians’ clinics statewide.

Dr. David Krol, medical director of Connecticut Children’s Care Network, said the hospital’s experiment in placing behavioral health experts at two pediatric clinics was a success.

“Our goal is to try to spread this across our network of 36 practices,” he said. “We want to be able to help those pediatric practices address the challenges that they’re facing in the volume and the intensity of behavioral health problems that their patients are having.”

New data from Evernorth Health Services shows that youth with asthma, Type 2 diabetes, low back pain, ADHD and eating disorders are at a higher risk for suicide.

Connecticut Children’s hosted a panel Feb. 7 led by Adm. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary of health for U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Levine, a pediatrician herself, said pediatricians must be trained in mental health.

“It is incumbent upon pediatricians to do more in this space themselves,” she said. “We are never going to have enough board-certified pediatric and adolescent psychiatrists, never, to deal with this tidal wave of care that needs to be provided.”

Levine said federal funding was available for hospitals that integrate mental health care into pediatricians’ offices and also for so-called “reverse integration” – pediatric specialists embedded into psychiatric clinics. But the financial model for this integrated practice is still not completely resolved.

“If it’s under fee for service, it’s reimbursed,” she said. “We’re really trying to have more payment for quality, rather than quantity, and more types of integrated clinics, and bundle bills and things like that.”

Last year, the Access Mental Health Connecticut program expanded under an $80 million allocation from the federal Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.

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