Expansion set for community pediatric mental health units

A pediatric behavioral health care unit led by Boston Medical Center (BMC) that has been piloted at Codman Square Health Center since 2016 is expanding its program to four other health centers in Massachusetts, including DotHouse Health in Fields Corner and South Boston Community Health Center. 

Launched at Codman Square Health Center, Dimock Center, and Lowell Community Health Center, TEAM UP – Transforming and Expanding Access to Mental Health Care in Urban Pediatrics for Children – aims to improve early identification of behavioral health problems and provide a coupling of preventive and treatment services to children and their families. 

All of the centers involved will continue as TEAM UP health centers under the expanded initiative. 

“Every day in clinic I see parents and children who struggle to describe how symptoms of depression, anxiety, and past trauma affect their family relationships and their readiness to learn at school,” said Dr. Huy Nguyen, chief medical officer at DotHouse Health and practicing pediatrician at the health center.  

“TEAM UP’s infusion of attention and resources toward developing a pediatric mental health home at DotHouse Health is exactly what we need to raise up families’ voices and to strengthen socio-emotional health and resilience at the earliest age,” added Nguyen. 

The program comprises interdisciplinary teams of providers working together to promote positive child health and well-being. In addition to expanding access to care through the integration of behavioral health clinicians and community health workers or family partners, TEAM UP supports enhanced access to specialty care, including psychiatric consultation through BMC, and linkages to other community services, such as early intervention, to ensure high-risk children can access needed services. 

“There is a tremendous need in Massachusetts and across the nation for better integration of behavioral health care into pediatric primary care clinics,” said Dr. Megan Bair, TEAM UP evaluation co-director who is a pediatrician at BMC and professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine.

“This meaningful work will bring a new level of behavioral care to thousands of children using Massachusetts federally qualified health centers, which is profound,” she added. 

Over the past three years, through an initial $8 million investment by the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation, TEAM UP has made quality care possible for more than 19,000 children with plans to reach 21,000 more, representing 25 percent of the federally qualified health center pediatric population by 2023. 

With the expansion of the program, made possible by $14 million in additional funding from the Smith Family Foundation and The Klarman Family Foundation, TEAM UP aims to train some 400 health center staff, double the number of trained therapists, and increase the number of community health workers in TEAM UP health centers.

An on-going evaluation of TEAM UP’s efforts by Boston University School of Medicine researchers has shown that participating community health centers in the first cohort have greatly improved their capacity to provide integrated behavioral health care in their pediatric clinics.

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