Cumberland Times-News

January 27, 2013

Pilot program helps pediatricians assess health concerns in children

Local doctor says cases of young patients with behavior ailments increasing

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Allegany and Garrett counties are part of a pilot program in Maryland that is aimed at helping pediatricians better assess and manage mental health concerns in children.

Titled the Maryland Behavioral Health Integration Program in Primary Care, this initial effort is also in place in Washington, Talbot, Kent, Wicomico, Calvert and Prince George’s counties.

Funding comes from the state departments of health and education. The consultants come from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Salisbury University Department of Social Work.

“This program will better enable primary-care providers to connect their patients to mental health services,” said State Health Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein. “It will create critical connections to ensure the seamless delivery of health services for youth.”

Dr. Rodney Williams of the Children’s Medical Group in Cumberland said Friday he has called for guidance about once a month.

“We don’t have much access in this area to pediatric psychiatry,” Williams said. “There are some very complex cases and we can consult and provide immediate treatment.”

The option, according to Williams, is a referral down state that includes a six- to 12-month wait to be seen.

“I might have a child who has a little depression, anxiety and anger. The consultation helps us make decisions about medication.”

Williams said the pediatric psychiatrists know the right questions to ask and can often indicate which medicines should not be used.

Williams said it is refreshing to be able to talk with a psychiatrist who specializes in working with children.

“It provides confidence. You know you are getting good advice and there is no guessing about medication,” he said.

Williams said he is seeing with increasing frequency new young patients with behavioral ailments.

B-HIPP offers assistance through four main components, all of which are available to primary-care providers without charge and without regard to a patient’s insurance status.

• Pediatrician phone consultation with child mental health specialists.

• Mental health skills training for primary physicians.

• Improvement of links between primary physicians and mental health-care providers in their own communities.

• Placement of social work interns at pediatricians’ offices (Eastern Shore only).

“For many families, especially in underserved areas, the primary-care physician is the portal for good mental health care,” said Dr. David Pruitt, program co-director, professor of psychiatry and head of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

 The pilot program will be available statewide in June.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.