- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—TRAVERSE CITY — Local pediatricians and counselors are hopeful a new partnership will give more children access to mental health care.

Kids Creek Children’s Clinic pediatrician Stephanie Galdes said families often reach out to their child’s primary care physician with behavioral health questions when what they really need is a therapist.

“What we would do before is give them a phone number or a list of counselors in the area, and a lot of times they just wouldn’t follow up,” Galdes said.

The child would end up back in her office with untreated behavioral issues, and the cycle would continue.

But a new partnership between Kids Creek and Child & Family Services of Northwestern Michigan is working to change that. Child & Family Services’ behavioral health team set up shop in Kids Creek’s Traverse City office in an effort to bridge the gap.

Physicians can now connect children and families to mental health providers the same day they come in for a check up.

“It’s nice. We walk them right over there, we talk to them and give them a little background, we introduce the family and it just goes a lot smoother,” Galdes said. “It just takes some of the road blocks out of getting counseling set up.”

The behavioral health team moved into the Kids Creek offices in April and already are seeing promising results.

Families are following through on referrals 59 percent of the time and 51 percent of patients return for follow-up appointments.

Paula Smith, director of behavioral health and community-based programs, believes making the connection between child and therapist easier helps reduce some of the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment.

“They don’t have to talk to somebody over the phone, they can talk to someone in person,” she said. “We can answer their questions right away and relieve some of their anxiety and engage them and keep them coming back.”

The next collaboration between the two organizations will be opening a trauma assessment center at the clinic for children who’ve experienced abuse, neglect or other traumatic experiences. The nearest children’s program is in Kalamazoo, and the waiting list for an appointment is 10-12 months.

“We didn’t want them to have to wait a year for this comprehensive trauma assessment. We wanted to be able to serve those children,” Smith said. “That encouraged us to look at offering that service in Traverse City for the families that we’re serving here.”

They hope to be up and running by mid-August and plan to do assessments about once a week.


(c)2015 The Record-Eagle (Traverse City, Mich.)

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