The Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health at the Georgia Health Policy Center (GHPC) employs a three-pronged focus on research, policy, and practice. The Center of Excellence’s research and evaluation team assesses behavioral health program effectiveness, while the center’s policy analysis team appraises financing structures and service delivery opportunities for improving the behavioral health System of Care in Georgia. The following are two of the Center of Excellence’s projects presented at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting (Boston; June 26-28).
Behavioral Therapy Difficult to Access for Youth with ADHD
Despite clear recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics to use behavioral therapy as first-line treatment for young children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), parents in Georgia are still experiencing difficulties accessing these needed behavioral services. Challenges to obtaining behavioral services include a lack of coordinated care for children, as well as cost and availability of behavioral treatment.
GHPC researchers conducted a series of focus groups with parents of children diagnosed with ADHD. Qualitative data analysis examined common themes regarding perceived benefits and barriers to receiving behavioral treatment for ADHD for their child.
Parents reported exploring a variety of interventions and services to address their children’s ADHD behavior, including behavioral therapy, medication treatment, and lifestyle changes such as diet/nutrition, physical activity, and increased sleep. Key themes emerged regarding
- Stigma/Attitudes from Others – Responses included feeling like a “bad parent,” avoidance by others, and staying away from public places
- Perceived Barriers to Receiving Behavioral Treatment for ADHD – Many barriers were cited including: a lack of knowledge of available treatment, lack of time for therapy, lack of access to services, cost, perceived stigma from others, and system barriers
- Challenges to Receiving Needed Services for ADHD – Parents cited a lack of communication among providers, lack of a comprehensive approach, and constant searching for answers/need for advocacy as challenges to receiving services for their child.
“In order to increase the probability of best practice for addressing ADHD, parents asked the health care and educational systems to acknowledge the complexity of children with ADHD who often have multiple challenges, and the important role that successful care coordination can play,” says Angela Snyder, Ph.D., an associate project director at GHPC, and study co-author.
The study “Benefits and Barriers to Evidence-Based Behavioral Health Services for Children with ADHD in Georgia” was presented at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting (Boston) on June 27. Addional co-authors include Ann DiGirolamo, Amanda Phillips Martinez, and Colleen Smith.
School-Based Mental Health Services Improve Access to Care for Children
A pilot program that provides school-based mental health services increased access to mental health services for students, increased early detection of mental health issues, and fostered community collaboration between mental health providers, local schools, school staff members, and other community organizations.
As part of the Georgia Apex Project, 29 community mental health providers in Georgia contracted with school partners serving elementary, middle and high school youth. The researchers found that the number of students served steadily increased throughout the pilot from 234 students in 109 schools in August 2015 to nearly 1,500 students who were receiving services in 135 schools in May 2016.
During the first year of the project, approximately one-third of students received mental health services for the first time. Students were most commonly referred to mental health providers from school staff members and parents. Providers delivered most services within the school setting (88 percent). The three most commonly delivered services included individual therapy, community supports/individual services, and behavioral health assessments. Providers were able to bill for the majority of services provided served throughout the program. The most common challenges providers faced included lack of family involvement and follow-up, acquiring office space for GAP providers, and reporting requirements.
“School-based mental health programs, such as the Georgia Apex Project, are an emerging avenue for providing mental health services to children,” says Ann DiGirolamo, Ph.D., the director of the Center of Excellence, and study co-author. “Reducing access barriers faced by children and families can aid in early detection of mental health problems and the provision of appropriate services and supports.”
The project, “The Georgia Apex Project: Increasing Access to Intensive Mental Health Services through Community Partnership” was presented at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting (Boston) on June 27. Additional authors include Sara Redd, Susan McLaren, Jana Pruett, Stephanie Pearson, and Matt Yancey.