4 ways CHOP is boosting behavioral healthcare services for children

Over the past few years, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has rolled out several initiatives to address the growing demand for children's behavioral health services.

About 21 percent of children under age 18 have a behavioral health condition that causes significant impairment, and suicide is the second-leading cause of death for adolescents, according to CHOP CEO Madeline Bell.

At CHOP, emergency department visits for children with behavioral health needs have tripled in the last year. In addition, 60 percent of the children who visit CHOP pediatricians have a behavioral health condition, Ms. Bell told Becker's Hospital Review via phone.

"It's really a crisis, and it's growing," she said. "We are really compelled to ensure we do everything we can to address this."

Here are four ways CHOP is working to address patients' behavioral health needs:

1. CHOP is training primary care physicians to appropriately screen children for any behavioral health issues, including suicide.

"One of the most important things we can do is support physicians in the community, since they see these children more often than they come to the hospital," Ms. Bell said.

2. The hospital is also embedding behavioral health providers, such as counselors, social workers and psychiatrists, in private care offices so children can have immediate access to treatment once diagnosed. CHOP has hired more than 60 behavioral health providers over the last four years to support this effort. The hospital is also placing more of these providers in its ED.

3. CHOP participates in the Telephonic Psychiatric Consultation Service program, launched in conjunction with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which gives primary care physicians access to telephonic consultations with a behavioral health professional within 30 minutes of requesting the consult.

"We are able to provide telephone support and be a first line of advice for [providers] in more rural areas, or outside the areas we serve," said Ms. Bell.

4. The hospital also opened a 10-bed medical behavioral unit in 2017, which is the first dedicated inpatient unit in the country for kids who have both medical issues requiring hospitalization and behavioral health issues that could interfere with care.

Ms. Bell told Becker's these efforts have helped children with behavioral health needs access appropriate healthcare services in a timely manner. However, there is more work to be done, she noted.

"We've only just begun our investment," Ms. Bell said. "We are in the process of implementing a whole strategic plan to [further address behavioral health needs]."

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