Parents seeking help or information about their child’s emotional or behavioral health often turn first to their pediatrician or their primary care provider (PCP). Unfortunately, family practice doctors often do not have the training needed to make decisions for children with mental health needs, and they may also lack access to appropriate consultation services.
A program launched by the NYS Office of Mental Health called Project TEACH gives New York’s pediatric primary care providers the knowledge they need to treat children and families who experience mild-to-moderate mental health concerns.
Project TEACH provides pediatricians and other primary care providers with rapid consultation, education and training, as well as referral and linkage services. It allows pediatric primary care providers to ask questions about any of their cases involving children and adolescents up to age 21. Questions can be specific to a particular patient; diagnosis and treatment for a specific mental health disorder; use of a particular medication or other treatment strategy; or general questions about topics in child psychiatry and/or behavioral health.
Project TEACH services are available to all New York PCPs serving children and adolescents. Additionally, other prescribers who are providing ongoing treatment to children, such as Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists, General Psychiatrists and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners, may request a second opinion through consultation.
Through Project TEACH, all pediatric PCPs are eligible to receive telephone consultation about their patients’ mental health needs. PCPs can also obtain direct consultation for their patients, either face–to-face with a child psychiatrist or via videoconference.
Project TEACH also gives healthcare providers access to referral and linkage services for their child and adolescent patients, to help them attain community mental health and support services such as clinic treatment, case management, or family support.
The program also provides educational-based trainings on a variety of topics related to children’s social and emotional development. CME credits are available to physicians for attending the training.
Since its inception, Project TEACH has enrolled more than 3,500 pediatric PCPs and provided 17,700 consultations and 5,700 linkage and referral services. In addition, Project TEACH offers CME training, in several different formats, at no cost to the provider. Pediatric PCPs may access training through the following:
Intensive trainings – specialized, in-depth programs offered annually in three sites around the state which address how to recognize, assess, and manage mild-to-moderate mental health concerns in children and adolescents.
Core trainings – Led by the Regional Provider teams and held on-site at pediatric practices. These trainings can be provided through a series of several 2 to 3-hour sessions or in one longer program depending on the needs of the practice and cover assessment and management of the important mental health issues that children and adolescents face.
On-line Courses – Project TEACH provides access to on-demand content through its online learning management system. Sessions focus on a variety of topics related to mental health in children and youth.
Expanding Project TEACH to Help New Mothers: Last year, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an expansion of Project TEACH to include education, training and consultation for maternal depression, which affects one in seven new mothers nationally. While maternal depression can be successfully treated, the sooner it is diagnosed the better the outcomes for both the mother and child. The goal of the Project TEACH Maternal Mental Health Initiative is to improve the well-being of all family members by offering providers the resources and support they need to provide the best care to women both during and after pregnancy.
Through the Project TEACH Maternal Mental Health Initiative, providers can access free consultation services with expert psychiatrists in maternal mental health and can receive assistance with linkages and referrals to the community resources their patients need.
The Maternal Mental Health Initiative has also produced new web-based training videos to help healthcare providers effectively screen for and treat maternal depression during and after pregnancy. The free webinars – titled “Screening and Treatment of Postpartum Depression” and “Diagnosis and Treatment of Depression During Pregnancy” — have been added to the on-line courses posted on OMH’s Project TEACH website: https://projectteachny.org/live-training/online-courses/. (Healthcare providers must create an account to view the webinars.) The site also offers links to many maternal mental health screening tools that assist in diagnosing postpartum depression and related mood and anxiety disorders.
Project TEACH has helped New York in its goal to integrate mental health care into primary care, allowing for earlier diagnosis and treatment. OMH continues to work with our partners to enhance Project TEACH and improve the ability of pediatric primary care providers to deliver care to children and new mothers.