Connecting the dots between pediatric mental health in primary and emergency settings

  • Published March 2, 2023
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Up to one in five children ages 3 to 17 in the U.S. have a mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder. The growing crisis requires innovative strategies to serve children in the settings where they often first seek care – such as emergency departments (EDs) and primary care offices.

Toward this end, last fall, the EMSC Innovation & Improvement Center (EIIC) was announced as the recipient of supplemental, one-year funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to develop technical assistance for the Pediatric Mental Health Care Assistance (PMHCA) Program.

The PMHCA Program

The PMHCA Program is a HRSA-funded program that promotes behavioral health integration into pediatric primary care using telehealth. Its goal is to assist primary care and other providers in recognizing pediatric behavioral health conditions and improving diagnosis, treatment, and referrals. The PMHCA Program brings together statewide and regional networks of pediatric mental health teams to provide timely services to primary care setting-based providers, such as:

  1. Teleconsultation
  2. Training
  3. Technical assistance
  4. Care coordination support services

The work has a wide reach: in 2021, more than 6,700 primary care providers in 21 states enrolled in a statewide or regional PMHCA Program.

What’s next

PMHCA participating PMHCA teams

“The EIIC seeks to grow partnerships between PMHCA programs and the emergency care space to link community partners and resources,” says Anna Goldman, RN, MSN, NPD-BC, Senior QI Specialist. “A core project team from EIIC will be working with PMHCA teams to identify barriers in knowledge and/or resources, establish partnerships among EDs and PMHCA programs, and develop evidence-based tools to support the implementation of PMHCA resources in the ED space.”

The core project team includes seven EIIC team members. The PMHCA grantees collaborating with the core project team include teams from seven states: Delaware, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington.

The full PMHCA technical assistance team will be participating in the ED Screening and Treatment Options for Pediatric (STOP) Suicide Quality Improvement Collaborative. As part of the collaborative, the team will apply the tenets of quality improvement methodology in the development of its technical assistance as well as create collaboration opportunities between the PMHCA grantees and EDs from around the U.S.

For questions about the PMHCA-related work, contact Anna Goldman or Jen Donathan.