Friday, 30 November 2012

Working together key on kids’ mental health

Working together key on kids’ mental health
2 days 10 hrs ago |
Dealing with children who have mental health issues is a challenge even before considering the many agencies and organizations entrusted with that task.

There are different departments and groups that interact with children who have mental health needs. Sometimes, representatives of those departments don’t talk to each other and don’t know what the other is doing when it comes to a particular case.

A coalition organized by Duke Medicine is set to bring a welcome cohesion to these efforts. It’s called The Integrated Pediatric Mental Health Care Collaboration and according to Helen Egger, the chief of the Division of Children and Family Mental Health at Duke, who is leading the initiative, it “gets key stakeholders together at the table.” Those working on children’s mental health issues often “don’t know what others who are involved are doing,” Egger said. “We’ve all been in individual silos and it’s not been a very efficient way to approach problems, leverage the different investments we have and make sure we are producing lasting outcomes.”

Many people working in organizations large and small know the difficulties that can result when silos are allowed to develop. Communication is stymied and productivity suffers when one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.

With children’s mental health, this problem stands to affect the well-being of our young people – one in 10 lives with a mental or emotional disorder.

A four-year, $1.6 million grant from the Duke Endowment will fund assessment of current pediatric mental health efforts and identify gaps; it will enhance knowledge through professional development; and will develop, implement and evaluate innovative school-based mental health care models.

The collaborating agencies include the Durham Center, Northern Piedmont Community Care, Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and several different divisions of Duke Medicine, the school of Nursing and the Department of Community and Family Medicine.

Durham children who are seen at Duke’s psychiatric emergency department, about 200 a year, will be tracked. Mental health providers, school personnel and health care personnel will receive training on childhood mental illness. Mental health services for children will be tracked along with their academic performance.

“If we want them to become adults, parents, workers, it’s more than reading and math,” said Ken Dodge, the director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy. “We need to help our children learn how to have self-control, come every day to work or school, to be mentally healthy. I think we’ll see that the gains [of this collaboration] will improve attendance, lower the number of dropouts and help improve the lives of our children.”

The holistic approach promised through this effort makes perfect sense. Children with mental health needs must not be allowed to fall through the cracks of the system.

Read more: The Herald-Sun - Working together key on kids’ mental health

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