East Tennessee Children’s Hospital

Early Intervention of Mental Illness in Pediatric Primary Care Offices

There has been a rapid rise in the number of children brought to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital’s (ETCH) Emergency Department (ED) for suicidal ideation. In addition, there has been a nationwide decline in pediatric psychiatrists resulting in significant delays in treatment of these children. Consequently, there is a critical need to increase pediatric primary care management of children with less severe mental health disorders.

ETCH submits an open topic proposal to the Trinity Foundation to research and design a process to educate Primary Care Providers (PCPs) about mental health detection and medication management. PCPs will be trained to use care paths for patients with mental health needs before they escalate. Through this program, ETCH can ensure that children get the help they need, at an earlier phase in their illness, by providing additional education and telehealth support to PCPs.

ETCH requests funding to develop plans for a formal mental health and medication management protocol for specific psychiatric disorders in PCPs’ offices. Funds will be used for data collection, physician surveys and travel to established centers to determine best practices. The expected results are a decrease in the need for assessment and boarding of suicidal patients in the ED. ETCH considers it our mission to create a structure to support providers and their patients who are showing early signs of mental health disorders. Our collaborative partners will be pediatric psychiatrists, pediatricians and insurance providers. ETCH will work to seek funding streams to sustain programming.