Program aims to provide better adolescent psychiatric care

Monday, November 17, 2008 | 5:22 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — If you live in the United States and your child develops a mental illness, finding an adolescent psychiatrist may be difficult.

A 2006 report by the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry estimated that of the approximately 13.7 million children needing treatment, less than 20 percent actually receive it. While barriers in insurance coverage and the stigma associated with mental illness are seen as factors for the inadequate amount of treatment, many within the field cite the lack of providers as the primary cause.

A new certification program between the MU College of Education and School of Nursing aims to improve the state of child psychiatry by training nurses, teachers and other education providers in adolescent mental health.

The goal is that by training more professionals in the field, the burden of care will not be solely on psychiatrists. In smaller cities, such as Columbia, finding a child psychiatrist can be especially difficult.

“There’s not proper geographic distribution. The majority of psychiatrists provide care in metro areas. Very few go into rural areas,” child psychiatrist Syed Arshad Husain said.

“The pay for psychiatrists in Boone County is a lot lower than it is nationwide. Attracting capable people is getting to be almost impossible,” Jerry Olson, co-chair of the Boone County Mental Health Board, said.

Husain states that there simply aren’t enough psychiatrists going into the field.

“Child psychiatry is too long a program. It’s very costly to become a psychiatrist and people don’t want to prolong their training,” Husain said.

A 1990 report from the Council on Graduate Medical Education said there would be a need for more than 30,000 adolescent psychiatrists. The 2006 report from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry said there are about 7,000 adolescent psychiatrists practicing today.

Laine Young-Walker, associate medical director for the Missouri Department of Mental Health, believes the problem is that there simply aren’t enough child psychiatry programs available. There are currently 122 adolescent psychiatry programs in the U.S., and according to the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, only 300 adolescent psychiatrists complete training each year.

Young-Walker said there has been some discussion nationwide about training primary care physicians and pediatricians in psychiatry.

While the professionals trained in the MU College of Education and School of Nursing's new certification program will not replace psychiatrists, they could help alleviate problems in smaller communities where primary care physicians are often the only ones available to provide psychiatric care. The program will begin in January, with funding coming from a $370,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Jim Koller, founder and co-director of the MU Center for the Advancement of Mental Health Practices in Schools, says this will allow for a more proactive approach to mental health care.

“The wait-to-fail model we’ve been using in the U.S. isn’t going to work,” Koller said. “The training for teachers will show them how to recognize early signs of mental illness and how to nourish good mental health.”

Olsen believes detecting mental illness early is key, “because if nothing's done they’ll probably end up on the streets or in jail.”

Koller also emphasized the importance of training school nurses, coaches and other employees. The center hosted workshop institutes around mid-Missouri over the summer, offering courses in mental health to families and school employees.

“If a kid's going to commit suicide, is he going to go tell the counselor? No, probably not. He’s going to go tell the coach or the cafeteria worker who gives them a little extra ice cream at lunch,” Koller said.

The nursing program will be the addition of courses dealing with mental health assessment and treatment options for children to the already existing adult mental health nurse practitioner program. The program will also be offered online.

“People who are in the program don’t have to leave their community to get their  education. So they’re staying in rural areas, and when they graduate they’ll be able to continue in their communities with improved skills,” said Jane Bostick, associate professor of nursing at MU.

Koller said that one of the goals of partnering the two schools is getting the various professions to work together.

“Right now everyone’s kind of in silos. We need people to better understand each other’s roles and reach across,” Koller said.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Teenage Problems January 9, 2009 | 12:47 a.m.

Therapeutic boarding schools prescribe lots of valuable struggling kids programs. School offers wide ranges of options for troubled adolescents. Adolescents learn quality educational programs in college and attain highest level of potential in life. Program offers behavioral and character growth.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 9, 2009 | 3:37 a.m.

Sounds like a very valuable program with all of the troubled teens we have across this nation today.

(Report Comment)
getty barbos February 16, 2009 | 5:47 a.m.

Recognized camps such as struggling teens help camps are getting famous every where for helping the troubled teens. The counselors of these camps are very friendly in nature and they can easily recognize the problem area of the patients.

(Report Comment)
john sena February 17, 2009 | 12:39 a.m.

There are various types of troubled teen programs which are proved to be the best options for troubled parents. These programs help struggling teens to come out of their mental health problems under specialists guidance. Parents should spend some time while choosing a best program for teens.

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.