Medical College awarded $1 million to help children with mental health needs

The Medical College of Wisconsin has been awarded a $1 million grant to pilot a Child Psychiatry Consultation Program in Milwaukee County and 15 northern Wisconsin counties. The recent announcement came from Wisconsin Department of Health Services secretary Kitty Rhoades.

“Mental health is important to the overall health and well-being of everyone in Wisconsin and is especially important for our state’s children and youth,” Rhoades said.  “Appropriately treating mental health issues at an early age will help prevent and avoid more costly interventions later in life.  This program will help children have better access to the mental health services they need by allowing a child psychiatrist from MCW to provide consultation to the child’s primary care provider.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 20 percent of U.S. children and adolescents ages 9 to 17 have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder; however, there is a shortage of psychiatrists with expertise in treating children with these disorders. This shortage has been felt particularly strongly in Wisconsin, and the CPCP is intended to provide much-needed assistance in the diagnosis and management of children and adolescents with mental health problems.

As part of the program, the Medical College will make available mental health professionals who will be able to support a child’s or adolescent’s primary care provider in diagnosing and managing mild to moderate mental health problems, and will ensure a referral support system for children and adolescents. This will include assisting with determining the most appropriate treatment, as well as making recommendations to other mental health professionals and community resources. Additionally, the Medical College will host training programs for primary care providers of children and adolescents to increase understanding of child behavioral health issues, diagnosis and treatment.

“We have a shortage of child psychiatrists in Wisconsin and nationwide, and primary care providers are often uncomfortable diagnosing psychiatric illnesses and often reluctant to prescribe psychotropic medications to their patients without guidance or input from a mental health specialist,” said Dr. Jon Lehrmann, the Charles E. Kubly Professor and Chair in Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at the Medical College. “This program will provide education, community linkage and referral, and a specialized ‘safety net’ to pediatricians and primary care providers to confidently treat children’s mental health disorders.”

The CPCP grant will serve children and youth in Milwaukee County and in the following 15 counties in northern Wisconsin: Ashland, Bayfield, Florence, Forest, Iron, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Oneida, Portage, Price, Sawyer, Taylor, Vilas and Wood counties.

Funding for the CPCP was created through Act 127 in response to recommendations from the Speaker’s Task Force on Mental Health.

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