Between 177,000 and 273,000 children in Colorado are estimated to have a mental health disorder. These numbers translate to between thirteen and twenty percent of the younger population and within that segment, over 80,000 of those affected could have a serious emotional concern. There is a national shortage of behavioral health care providers trained to treated children and adolescents and Colorado is no exception.
However, last year , children across the state gained a new champion when it comes to their mental health. The Colorado Psychiatric Access and Consultation for Kids (C-PACK) project began in 2013, and aims to increase access to behavioral health services and help offset the shortage of behavioral health providers.
One portion of the project is devoted to training primary care providers in screening, assessing, and treating behavioral health concerns. Sara Kemp, Coordinator of C-PACK notes, “Primary care providers, more often than mental health practitioners, are the first to see children with behavioral health issues.” To support them in providing mental health services, fellowships in Primary Pediatric Psychopharmacology (PPP) and Child and Adolescent Training in Evidence-Based Therapies (CATIE) are offered to participating primary care providers (PCPs) and behavioral health care practitioners through a partnership with the REACH Institute (Resource for Advancing Children’s Health). This past December, a call line was established for providers to call during business hours for real-time consultations with child psychiatrists. Any provider in the participating clinics can use the call line, whether or not they participated in the training/fellowship.
Ongoing support for PCPs is also a key element of the C-PACK initiative. Behavioral Health Consultation Teams conduct clinic site visits and informal training sessions and assist with care coordination for patients who need treatment beyond what a PCP can provide.
Funded by a two-year grant from the Colorado Health Foundation and operating in the metro Denver area and the southern section of the state, C-PACK is managed by Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Systems (CBHS) while ValueOptions and Colorado Access work with clinics and Community Mental Health Centers in different localities across the state.
The areas served represent a variety of urban, suburban, and rural demographics, and the goal is to expand the program statewide in the coming years. Participating providers have access to C-PACK resources for all patients, regardless of their insurance coverage, and the clinics see a range of various payers. Currently, C-PACK is helping over 136,000 children.
JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc. is in the midst of conducting evaluations of the C-PACK program as the grant period hits the midpoint. Evaluations are assessing the comfort level of participating providers with identifying behavioral health conditions and ability to follow up with treatment or care coordination. In the months since the call center opened, early metrics suggest that PCPs who have undergone the behavioral health training are more likely to use the consultation hotline. Many of these calls result in care coordination for patients needing more intensive care from specialists.
Though results are still coming in, Ms. Kemp states that, “initial trends indicate that C-PACK is assisting PCPs to address behavioral health issues with consultation and care coordination – improving access to behavioral health care to children and adolescents.” As the initiative heads into the second year, it is becoming clear that educating primary care providers in behavioral health is an important step toward ensuring the mental and physical health of Colorado’s future generations.
For more information, please email Sara Kemp, Coordinator of C-PACK, at email@example.com.