Department of Health rolls out statewide Pediatric Mental Health Care Access program

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Parents seeking child mental health services may now have an easier time getting treatment, and may not have to go further than their primary pediatric physician.

The North Dakota Department of Health, along with Sanford Health, has rolled out something called the Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program (PMHCA).

Pediatricians can now call a consulting line, that allows them to talk to child psychiatrists and treat without waiting for a referral. One pediatrician tells us some of her patients have had to wait months and travel across the state for care.

“What I noticed in my practice is there are a great percentage of very complex patients who require specialty care. This enabled me to obtain a consult regarding how to manage the patient’s medication that’s being used for their behavioral health needs, and provide an intervention,” said Dr. Joan Connell.

With the suicide rate in North Dakota ranking higher than the national average, health professionals are doing what they can to catch and treat mental health disorders early on. The pandemic has made the issue even direr, leading to a rise in child-patients which brings to light another issue.

“In North Dakota, we do not have enough child licensed psychiatrists. The need now for child psychiatry and child mental health services is significant. So, we’re just really trying to get into the primary care space to have mental health awareness,” said Jenn Faul, Head of Special Projects at Sanford Health.

The program will also host annual mental health symposiums and monthly Project ECHO sessions for providers in rural and underserved areas.

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