MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS A New Approach
Mental and physical health go hand-in-hand at Rady Children’s
months, or possibly not ever getting it at all,” says Dr. Bird.
KIDS AND TEENS IN SAN DIEGO AND BEYOND ARE FACING A MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS. According to the National Institutes of Health’s 2022 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, nearly 20 percent of youth ages 3 to 17 have a mental, emotional, developmental or behavioral disorder. Furthermore, suicidal behaviors among high school students increased more than 40 percent between 2009 and
Advocacy is also a big part of the Transforming Mental Health initiative. Officials from Rady Children’s are pushing for improved mental heath benefits and reliable insurance reimbursements for the same-day mental health services currently being funded through
grants and philanthropy. The team also regularly travels to conferences to present research showing that the integrated care model works, and partners with workforce development agencies to address the shortage in pediatric mental health care providers. Though the initiative is relatively young, preliminary results show its impact on patients is undeniable: 64 percent of patients have reported an improvement in depression, 43 percent have had a reduction in anxiety and ED visits by behavioral health patients participating in the integration program have fallen roughly 47 percent. “We’re ahead of the curve with what we’ve been able to put together, and our outcomes really show that,” says Dr. Bird.
2019. At Rady Children’s alone, mental health emergency department (ED) visits have increased by 1,700 percent in the last decade. Rady Children’s is confronting the crisis head-on with an initiative called Transforming Mental Health. The program integrates mental and behavioral health into primary care, which helps providers identify problems sooner, intervene earlier and connect patients to additional services when needed. “The volume of kids that are struggling is huge,” says Anne Bird, MD, medical program director, Mental Health Integration and Transforming Mental Health at Rady Children’s. “Our medical system in this country is really struggling to get those kids the mental health care—and the access to the care—that they need.”
WHAT INTEGRATED CARE IS TRYING TO DO IS TO PUT A THERAPIST NEXT DOOR TO THE PEDIATRICIAN SO KIDS AND FAMILIES CAN GET SAME-DAY ACCESS TO CARE. ANNE BIRD, MD
MEDICAL PROGRAM DIRECTOR, MENTAL HEALTH INTEGRATION AND TRANSFORMING MENTAL HEALTH AT RADY CHILDREN’S
For many families, primary care providers are the first point of access
for any issue, physical or mental. The impetus behind Transforming Mental Health is to remove barriers to obtaining mental health care and create pathways through primary care using a “whole child” approach. This is a departure from the traditional model in which patients were given a list of mental health resources and left to figure out the next steps on their own. Through Rady Children’s integrated care model, mental health clinicians are stationed in primary care offices and work closely with primary care physicians. They educate physicians about how to screen for and treat mental health issues, train employees on how the integrated care model works and collaborate with other agencies to establish best practices. “What integrated care is trying to do is to put a therapist next door to the pediatrician so kids and families can get same-day access to care as opposed to waiting for
FALL 2023 HEALTHY KIDS MAGAZINE 7
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