Although an estimated one in five children in the U.S. has a behavioral health issue, there are substantial unmet needs and systemic barriers to accessing behavioral health care. Progress to integrate behavioral health into pediatric primary care has been slow, especially for low-income communities.
To address the issue, three Boston-area pediatric community health centers began working with Boston University and Boston Medical Center in 2016 to implement the Transforming and Expanding Access to Mental Health Care in Urban Pediatrics (TEAM UP) model of fully-integrated pediatric behavioral health within primary care.
A new study led by a Boston University School of Public Health researcher finds that, in the first year and a half of the program, children with a mental health diagnosis who were served by the TEAM UP sites went for more primary care visits than similar children served by non-participating community health centers. Despite this increase in visits, children who were part of TEAM UP did not see an increase in healthcare costs.
Published in Health Services Research, the study is the first evaluation of a pediatric behavioral health integration initiative to compare participating and non-participating community health centers.
“Notwithstanding the direct investment of implementing the intervention, integrating behavioral health into the pediatric medical home for low-income children has measurable value in as little as one and a half years, without further increasing patient spending,” says lead study author Dr. Megan Cole, assistant professor of health law, policy & management.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on November 29