KU School of Medicine–Wichita
1010 N. Kansas
Wichita, KS, 67214
February 19, 2020
By Brian Whepley
KU School of Medicine-Wichita is running a new statewide program that not only seeks to ensure timely mental health care for Kansas children, but also provide primary care doctors the training, support and resources to deliver that care.
KSKidsMAP is a partnership of the medical school's Department of Pediatrics, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences and the Kansas Department of Health & Environment. The program officially launched at the beginning of February, but began gearing up last fall. It's funded by a four-year, $2.1 million grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, so collecting data and measuring outcomes are part of the program.
A basic goal of KSKidsMAP and others like it across the country is to enable primary care physicians to deliver mental health care in their offices instead of sending young patients to community mental health centers or other specialists with months-long waits, often several hours from home. That way, mental health facilities can focus limited resources on kids with more complex issues.
It aims at a problem particularly pronounced in Kansas and other rural states: "There are just not enough mental health providers," said Kari Harris, M.D., associate professor and KSKidsMAP ECHO medical director.
Family medicine doctors and pediatricians are already seeing children with anxiety, depression, autism, ADHD and other conditions, but often lack the training to treat them or knowledge of accessible existing resources.
"Most people will go to their doctor and say, ‘Hey, this is what's going on with my child,'" said KSKidsMAP coordinator Polly Freeman, LBSW MSW. "They won't call up the local mental health center, but they have trust and a relationship with their doctor."
The program has three primary pieces. One is the consultation line, available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, that connects providers with referrals and resources, a role handled by Freeman, a social worker. She has gathered extensive lists of therapists, websites, toolkits and other resources for physicians. She can help providers find available therapists specializing in autism or other issues, or help navigate other barriers.
"You become a doctor because you wanted to help and treat people, it can be overwhelming if you don't have the resources," Freeman said.
Callers can consult on specific cases with KSKidsMAP staff: Harris, a pediatrician; Rachel Brown, MBBS, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and head of the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences; and Nicole Klaus, Ph.D., ABPP, a child and adolescent psychologist in the department.
Freeman and Klaus have recruited in northwest and southwest Kansas and Emporia, Kansas City and Topeka, with other areas planned. As of mid-February, over 30 doctors have enrolled and nearly 40 consultations have been done.
With ties across the state, the medical school is well positioned to offer KSKidsMAP. "Having it under the university, that opens the door when I cold call," Freeman said.
Providers sign up for the free service by completing an enrollment form and then have the option of taking part in the second major program piece, TeleECHO, which will begin twice-monthly virtual meetings in April. TeleECHO follows a model in use at the medical school on such topics as opioids, autism and antibiotics use. The sessions include a case presentation and short didactics on matters such as medication management or screening tools for ADHD. CME will be available at no charge; the program is applying for maintenance of certification credit as well.
The final piece involves wellness, recognizing that having doctors wade deeper into mental health issues, particularly involving kids, can be emotional and contribute to burnout. "Any time you are going to ask a physician to manage a kid with mental health issues, that's a different level than a kid with an ear infection," Harris said.
"We are identifying more kids with mental illness," Harris said, noting the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends annual depression screening for children 12 and older. "This program is going to increase access and help keep those kids in their primary care provider's office for treatment."
"It's not that doctors don't have the ability to care for these kids," Harris said. "They have the potential and desire, and this is intended to help move the knowledge and expertise into their practices."