Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Children Prefer Mental Health Care at Office of Pediatrician Study Finds Families Seek Familiarity

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Children Prefer Mental Health Care at Office of Pediatrician Study Finds Families Seek Familiarity

Article excerpt

Integrated care -- the decades-old but slow-to-catch-on concept of providing mental- and physical-health care in one place -- gets a big boost today with publication of a University of Pittsburgh study in the journal Pediatrics.

The five-year, federally funded study found children treated for mental-health disorders at their pediatricians' offices were nearly seven times more likely to complete a program of care, with better results, than those referred to outside specialists.

Lead researcher David Kolko said the results suggest families view the pediatrician as a convenient, trusted and discreet source for effective treatment of certain behavioral disorders.

"They came back to a setting where they've been for years and feel comfortable," said Mr. Kolko, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychiatry, psychology, pediatrics and clinical and translational science at Pitt's School of Medicine.

Robert Rutkowski, a pediatrician who took part in the study, said children's acceptance of mental-health care at his office makes sense because "they come to us for all sorts of other things."

Dr. Rutkowski, of Children's Community Pediatrics in Moon, South Fayette and Pine, said his practice is so pleased with the results it plans to continue offering mental-health services.

The findings didn't surprise Gregory Fritz, president-elect of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, who said integrated care will be one of his leadership priorities. He said he soon will meet with representatives of the American Academy of Pediatrics -- the group publishing the Pitt study in its journal -- to plan joint initiatives on the subject.

The study focused on 321 children, 160 of whom received treatment at their pediatricians and 161 of whom were referred to regular mental-health providers. The children had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorders or other behavioral disorders diagnosed by Mr. Kolko's team.

The participating pediatricians were in eight practices affiliated with Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Researchers arranged for social workers to counsel the children and consult with their doctors, who prescribed any necessary medications. The patients and family members were asked to attend six to 12 consultations within six months.

Of the children assigned to receive care at their doctor's office, 99.4 percent initiated treatment and 76.6 percent completed their programs. Of those referred to specialists outside the office, 54.2 percent began treatment and 11.6 percent completed it.

While children's issues with behavior and hyperactivity generally improved regardless of where they received care, those treated in the pediatrician's office made more progress, according to caregiver and researcher assessments. Also, during the study period, parents of those treated at the pediatrician's office reported less stress than parents of children treated by other providers. …

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