Bridging the Gap Between Pediatric Care and Behavioral Health Services

New York State has 62 counties, but only two--Westchester and Otsego--have a sufficient number of practicing child and adolescent psychiatrists, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

A group of child and adolescent psychiatrists are addressing the need with a free hotline for primary care providers. Called Child and Adolescent Psychiatry for Primary Care (CAP PC), the program enhances the clinical decision-making process for providers who treat young patients with behavioral issues. Victor Fornari, MD, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital, leads the initiative.

"There was and is a clear need to make pediatric behavioral health services and information more easily accessible to pediatricians and family medicine providers who often serve as the front line of care for young patients," Dr. Fornari said. "We created CAP PC with those goals in mind."

Access with Ease

The program gives primary care providers free access to child psychiatrists via a consultation hotline. Consultants answer questions, discuss the application and results of standardized rating scales, help with diagnosis, and coordinate further care as necessary. The hotline is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CAP PC also provides online access to data, rating scales, educational materials, videos and other resources.

"This information can empower smarter diagnoses and makes providing in-office mental health care services easier, even to providers in rural areas," Dr. Fornari said.

CAP PC, supported and funded by the New York State Office of Mental Health, is a statewide network of mental health providers supporting primary care providers. The system hinges on the support and collaboration of five regional medical schools that serve as hubs for the service: University at Buffalo, University of Rochester, Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute, SUNY Upstate and Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine. Primary care providers can find an educational component via REACH training.

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