Rutgers Program to Use Telehealth to Improve Children’s Mental Health

Across the United States, per the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), more than one in five children aged 13 to 18—about 21 percent—struggle with mental health challenges, along with approximately 13 percent of children aged eight to 15. What’s more, the vast majority of these children do not receive treatment, including many in underserved urban communities. With that in mind, as mHealth Intelligence first reported, a new Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care initiative is aiming to use telehealth to bridge the gap by facilitating pediatrician consults with mental health care providers. “If we can increase pediatricians’ capacity to identify and treat their patients’ emotional and behavioral challenges, it would fill a need for many families who are not getting services,” Evelyn Orozco, the program’s director, said in a press release. “In a perfect world, you would have a psychiatrist who works at every pediatric office. That’s not realistic, but this model comes close.”

The Collaborative Behavioral Health Care Project – Essex HUB, which Rutgers Behavioral Health Care will run in conjunction with New Jersey Medical School, received a $555,555 grant from the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. Headquartered in Newark, it has among its staff members psychiatrists, social workers, drug and alcohol counselors, and case managers. Along with hosting monthly mental health-focused education and training sessions for Essex County pediatricians, the program staff is available during business hours for consults with local pediatricians, either by phone or via telehealth. Per the Rutgers press release, the program is projected “to serve about 60 pediatricians and 100 non-physician professional or administrative staff at 20 primary care practices throughout the county in screening, managing and improving access to care for approximately 120,000 youths.”

Program director Orozco highlighted in particular the role that the program will play for young people in Essex County’s underserved urban communities. “Urban youth are at a higher risk for exposure to trauma, which can result in emotional and behavioral symptoms that can be easily misdiagnosed,” she noted in the Rutgers press release. “Early treatment is essential in preventing disorders from becoming more chronic and debilitating.”

Click here to read the mHealth Intelligence article on the Rutgers child/adolescent mental health program.

Click here to read the Rutgers press release on the child/adolescent mental health program.

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