Telephone lines allows primary care doctors to immediately consult with a child psychiatrist; about mental health problems appears to increase the number of children who receive aid; offering strategy to help more children to receive mental health services, according to a new study.

Researchers found that parents of children who lived in states with child psychiatric telephone access programs; were significantly more likely to say their children received mental health services than parents of children; in states without such programs. The study is the first to examine the influence of child psychiatric telephone; access programs on a national level.

“These findings suggest that telephone access programs may be one strategy; to improve the proportion of children who receive help for their mental health needs,” said Dr. Bradley D. Stein, the study’s lead author and a physician scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

Children with mental health problems

Studies estimate that half of the children in the U.S. with mental health problems; do not receive needed treatment, often because there are too few child mental health specialists to provide the services need. In response, many states have established child psychiatric telephone consultant programs; in the hope that access to psychiatric specialists will encourage more primary care physicians; to provide mental health services to their patients.

Most of the programs are modeled after the first such effort that create in Massachusetts in 2004. Since then a majority of states have established such programs; although some states have partial programs that serve only select counties. RAND researchers used information from the National Survey of Children’s Health to examine how mental health treatment patterns  change since the establishment of child psychiatric telephone consultant programs.

The information included details about more than 245,000 children ages 5 to 17; who took part in surveys done in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2016. Because states adopted child psychiatric telephone access programs in different years; examining treatment trends over time allow researchers to account for the influence of other efforts; to improve access to child mental health services.

Family income that could influence

Researchers finds that nationally the % of children receiving mental health treatment; rise from 8.4% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007, 11.1% in 2011 and 11.4% in 2016. By 2016, the % of children receiving mental health services in states with statewide child; psychiatric telephone access programs was 12.3 %; in contrast to states where there were partial programs (10.9%) or no such programs (9.5%).

Even after considering factors such as family income that could influence access to treatment; children from states with statewide child psychiatry telephone access programs; significantly more likely to receive mental health services than children residing in states without such programs.

Researchers say the study suggests that recent federal investment; to substantially expand child psychiatric telephone consultation programs could bolster the number of children who receive need mental health services. “These programs likely complement other efforts such as tele-psychiatry programs; for families who have no nearby provider, and student loan forgiveness programs intend; to increase the number of child-focused mental health providers,” Stein said.