Connecticut expanding training for pediatricians on mental health;  implement more RE resources in schools

Connecticut expanding training for pediatricians on mental health; implement more RE resources in schools

The Access Connecticut Mental Health The program is expanding as part of an $80 million allocation under the bipartisan federal Safer Communities Act. Lawmakers and mental health experts gathered at the Wheeler Family Health & Wellness Center in New Britain on Monday to discuss how the funds should be used to fill gaps in pediatric mental health care.

“Paediatricians need support, and we want to be able to train and support pediatricians and we want to give them direct access to mental health experts so they can care for the children they see every day in their homes. offices,” said carol johnsonadministrator, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Wheeler Family Health & Wellness Center offers real-time teleconsultation to pediatricians when a child or teen is experiencing a mental health crisis in the pediatrician’s office. The center is one of three centers providing pediatric mental health teleconsultation support to primary care physicians in Connecticut.

Nationally concerns and incidents related to mental illness have increased among children and adolescents and Connecticut is no exception. Wheeler clinicians said mental health support services for pediatricians increased 33% over the past year and more than 85% of Connecticut pediatricians use the program.

“I can tell you that my practice [in] pediatrics today is not what it was 28 years ago,” said Dr. Barbara Ziogas, a pediatrician in private practice in Farmington. “I have never been trained in mental health. Today, at least 20-25% of the patients I see every day are children with behavioral problems. And if I look at all the screening that I do when you screen these children, you open Pandora’s box.

Ziogas credited the Access Mental Health program with training her “in the nuances of medications that don’t work, and when I need to adjust the titer of medications, and when I have a side effect from the medication.”

Mark Mirko


Connecticut Public

Pediatrics specialist Dr. Barbara Ziogas, MD, said 20-25% of her patients have behavioral issues. “If I look at all the screening I do when you screen these kids, you open Pandora’s box.”

“I can’t tell you how much they supported me,” she said. “I’ve had suicidal kids in my office, and I can call a mobile crisis unit and made appointments at that time. And I made an appointment for them to come back to my office two days later. Thanks to Access, I know how to use resources. They helped me navigate the system.

Dr. Gregory Germain, associate chief of pediatrics at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital and a community pediatrician in New Haven, also spoke about treating a growing number of children for mental health issues.

“So Thursday of last week I had a pretty typical day, my general pediatrics practice,” he said. “I had my usual routine physicals and ear infections, and had four separate acute mental health crisis patients come into my office that day. And I think that shows that we’ve pretty much saturated the availability of the community. So our school systems are saturated, our community mental health providers are saturated. Our child psychiatrists have been saturated for years.

Germain said he frequently turns to Wheeler for help.


Mark Mirko


Connecticut Public

Gregory Germain, MD, and Professor of Pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, speaks during a roundtable on pediatric mental health at the Wheeler Family Health & Wellness Center in New Britain, Monday, October 24, 2022. Photograph by Mark Mirko/Connecticut Public

“Our consultation services have grown by more than 50,000 over the years,” said Dr. Richard Miller, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Wheeler. “We can see them [patients] as soon as the parent is able to make an appointment the next day.

The Access Mental Health program began “after gaps in mental health screening and access to care became painfully clear, following the horrors of the Sandy Hook massacre,” Miller said. Clinician teams are based in Hartford, Yale and Wheeler.

But the continued shortage of health workers is exacerbating the crisis at a time when the demand for mental health care is increasing.

“We have a number of employees who are members of the National Health Service Corps., the Corps of nurses.said Sabrina Trocchi, President and CEO of Wheeler, explaining how Wheeler is filling the gaps.

Representative Jahana Hayes, a candidate for re-election in the 5th congressional district, pointed to legislation enacted to support historically black colleges and universities, she said, “to improve their medical programs and recruit and retain more people. of the most difficult communities. struck for service in these fields return to these communities.

Vanessa Dorantes, commissioner for the state Department of Children and Families, also stressed labor shortages and the need for a long-term strategy.


Mark Mirko


Connecticut Public

Vanessa Dorantes, Commissioner of the CT State Department of Children and Families, speaks during a pediatric mental health roundtable at the Wheeler Family Health & Wellness Center in New Britain.

“Our legislature has allowed for some of that parity across states to be able to really bring clinicians who specialize in understanding trauma to our state,” she said. “[We need to] think about how these funds can extend beyond the temporary nature to sustainability.

The $80 million in funding will also support schools and emergency departments providing mental health care to children and teens.

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