Children’s Behavioral Health Clinic transforms mental health care for families

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Four years ago, two doctors in the pediatric trauma unit at UMC Health System noticed a disturbing trend. As doctors, they could heal the physical injuries of children who had suffered dog bites, car crashes, severe falls and more, but they were powerless to heal the mental and emotional scars caused by these events.

After the children and their families left the hospital, the assessment and treatment of these invisible consequences was minimal. Psychological and behavioral disorders such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, left untreated, then manifested as behavioral problems, recurrence, and even reduced adherence to physical treatment plans. For patients living in rural communities, where mental health treatment options were scarce, the situation was exacerbated.

Drs. Brian Payne and Thomas McGill knew there had to be a better way, so they reached out to their peers across the country to see what the others were doing. What they found, however, was that many providers saw the same concerns – and no one had an established approach to assess and treat these types of patients.

As a result, physicians outside of the medical field reached out to colleagues in the couples therapy, marriage and family therapy, and clinical psychology programs at Texas Tech University.

“Seeing the urgency of this need and the lack of precedent in other medical centers, Drs. Payne and McGill have expressed their concerns and their desire to work together, ”said Cam Brown, assistant professor of couples, marriage and family therapy. “They wanted not only to serve the local community, but also to create a model that other large medical centers serving diverse and rural communities could adopt.”

The collaboration led to the opening of the Child Behavioral Health Clinic (CSSB), which now caters to children and adolescents in the community as well as to those who have passed through the hospital.

An office of the Texas Tech Children's Behavioral Health Clinic.

The objective of the clinic is threefold:

• provide affordable mental health support to pediatric patients and families throughout West Texas through teletherapy services;

• provide comprehensive clinical training to doctoral-level family therapists in a collaborative health care setting; and

• Conduct high-quality research to improve the effectiveness of mental health interventions for pediatric trauma patients and their families while developing a blueprint for other medical systems serving similar communities.

Of the three priorities, teletherapy was the most urgent when the clinic opened.

“As of 2018, the Faculty of Marriage, Marriage and Family Therapy saw the growing need for tele-mental health services in our area due to the rural nature of much of West Texas and East. from New Mexico, ”Brown said. “We saw that many of the small rural communities surrounding Lubbock County did not have a doctor, such as a family doctor or nurse, let alone a mental health professional. The lack of resources in these communities forced residents to travel several hours to receive care.

At the same time, new research has confirmed that teletherapy is just as effective as in-person treatment for many mental and behavioral health issues.

A grant from the CH Foundation in early 2020 enabled CBHC to purchase the appropriate equipment and provide the necessary training for clinicians to deliver telehealth services.

The timing was perfect.

“We had no idea of ​​the devastation and hardship to come from COVID-19, but with these foundational teletherapy elements that were laid, the CBHC was able to move fairly seamlessly to only offering teletherapy services to patients and their families, ”said Brown. “Additionally, to support the health heroes who are helping us through this pandemic, we were able to provide free treatment to health care workers who had worked tirelessly to help our community through this difficult time. “

As valuable as CBHC is to patients, it is equally beneficial to clinical trainees graduating from Marriage, Marriage, and Family Therapy and Clinical Psychology programs.

“It’s a unique training model where these graduate interns grow in their professional development through hands-on work,” Brown said. “They are learning how to provide effective clinical services to our beautifully diverse West Texas community through teletherapy and in-person efforts. Additionally, we are one of the few clinical training programs that offer in-hospital training, where CBHC clinical trainees develop important collaborative skills with healthcare providers, unique assessments and medical treatment models. .

It was undoubtedly a coincidence that the CBHC was ready to provide teletherapy services just at the onset of the pandemic. But an unforeseen outcome from COVID-19 was just as fortuitous for providers seeking to help their communities.

“The ‘new’ normal is that many members of the community are familiar and comfortable with teletherapy services,” said Brown. “The comfort and familiarity with this approach has opened many doors for people to receive mental health services from the comfort of their own homes. This is particularly useful for people in rural communities who would need to travel for hours to see a mental health professional. “

The doors to CBHC are now open not only through teletherapy, but also in-person services. In fact, the clinic recently received a special visit from Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec.

“It was great to have President Schovanec in the clinic and see him light up when he heard about the services we provide to the West Texas community and the current and future research we are conducting. “Brown said. “He quickly understood the vision we have for this place.

“Over the years, President Schovanec has made it clear that he wants Texas Tech to give back to the local communities who have given so much to our campus. He exemplifies this in the work he does through engaged scholarship and community outreach. CBHC tries to capture and put into practice these same types of community efforts.

To ensure that community members can get the help they need, regardless of their financial situation, all clinic services are offered on a sliding scale.

“We want to ensure that we don’t want money to get in the way of individuals and families who need services,” Brown said.

And this is the heart of the matter: for the many struggling individuals and families, the CBHC wants to help.

“Sometimes the hardest, scariest step is making that first call,” Brown said. “When you are ready, our friendly staff and friendly clinicians will do everything possible to help you get the relief you are looking for. “

For more information about CBHC or its services, or to make an appointment, call the clinic at (806) 742-3074.


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