Providers addressing lack of child psychiatrists
|By Paul Swiech, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Possible solutions are where things get complicated.
But two recent developments are helping. One is improved reliability and increasing prevalence of teleconferencing between local primary care providers and child psychiatrists, a collaboration that makes it easier for children to get diagnosed, treated and prescribed appropriate medication.
The second development is Dr.
"I would say, right now, we're in a better place than we've been in six to seven years," said Dr.
But everyone agrees OSF Resource Link that provides teleconferencing, and Chu are only the start of a long journey to improve services for the growing number of children with mental illness.
"This is a massively growing problem everywhere," said Dr.
As many as 20 percent of children may have a mental illness, added Dr.
Many pediatricians are comfortable treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and mild depression or anxiety, said Traeger and Milligan. But when symptoms are more severe -- like when a child has bipolar disorder, becomes suicidal or has a behavioral disorder -- pediatricians prefer to refer to psychiatrists.
But there is a nationwide shortage of child psychiatrists.
Additional training to become a child psychiatrist means a psychiatrist can't open a practice until about age 32. By that point, he or she can be about
Child psychiatry also is complex and patients don't get well immediately.
Also, few psychiatrists see
"That adds a complicating factor to something that already is not attractive to a lot of providers," Pieper said.
For children under 12 with private insurance, there are three child psychiatrists in
For young children on
A couple other child psychiatrists come to
Navigating the system
Families are referred to Barnes by pediatricians and family practice doctors. She meets with families and helps to schedule appointments with psychiatrists and counselors and follows up with families.
Barnes also coordinates teleconferences between primary care doctors and two psychiatrists (one from
"About 80 percent of my clientele is on
Since Resource Link expanded to
"For parents who follow through, most of the children get better," she said.
"That service (Resource Link) is absolutely wonderful," Traeger said. Milligan agreed.
"I don't call this a solution," Barnes said. "But it provides assistance to help fill the gap. A solution would be more child psychiatrists."
Another telephone consultation service used locally is Illinois DocAssist that connects primary care physicians with child and adolescent psychiatrists and other behavioral health clinicians, said
The first step to getting more people interested in psychiatry is for society to change its attitude about mental illness, physicians said.
"These are not personality weaknesses or shameful problems, but real diseases that occur," said Dr.
"You wouldn't tell someone with diabetes, 'Stop doing it,' " Traeger said. "So why do we say that to people who can't control their behavior? People need to view mental health like they view physical health: as conditions that need to be treated."
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