Mental health care made available to kids through pediatricians’ offices

Some Louisville pediatricians add mental health care to practice

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Studies show many children’s behavioral health issues go untreated and lead to deeper issues in adulthood.

In response, more pediatric practices around the country are beginning to offer psychological care. For many years, health providers have offered mental health care to kids outside of the primary care or pediatrician’s office. Norton Children’s Medical Associates recently began integrating mental health care in its practices.

Dr. Katy Hopkins, is pediatric psychologist, and is now seeing patients at four Norton Children’s Medical Associates offices -- Dixie, Middletown, Elizabethtown and the Broadway office downtown, as well as at Norton Children’s Gynecology.

Hopkins said integrating physical and mental health care makes it easier for kids to receive help.

“The biggest barrier to accessing quality mental health care in our society is easy access to treatment,” Hopkins said. “Having mental health specialists in pediatrician offices allows us to treat patients' bodies and their minds at the same time.”

Many practices already conduct depression screenings starting at age 11, offering psychological care in a pediatrician’s office just takes it to another level. Norton Healthcare says because of a gift from the Ulmer Family Foundation, Norton Children’s Medical Associates has hired a social worker for their Broadway location, which serves many families in west Louisville.

Many parents may struggle when their children express difficult feelings and may instinctively tell their children not to worry or be angry, but Hopkins said that message can invalidate the way children feel.

The CDC reports one in five children ages 3 through 17 -- about 15 million -- have a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder in a given year. But only 20 percent of them get diagnosed or receive care.

Mental health issues among children in the U.S. continue to rise at an alarming rate. According to a new study from Children’s National Health System, the number of kids and teens who went to the emergency room for mental health concerns increased significantly between 2012 and 2016. The biggest spike was among black children.

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