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Published in CenterView on January 27, 2014

Children’s Collaborative advances pediatric specialty assistance

By Jen Hospodor

A new combined effort between the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Mississippi Children’s Home Services aims to make behavioral health care more accessible to the children and families of Mississippi.

Dr. David Elkin
Dr. David Elkin

The joint initiative, named the Children’s Collaborative, is among the first of its kind in the country. The program will be supported with a two-year, $8 million Medicaid grant, and will address some major obstacles that families face when trying to get care for children with behavioral problems.

“We are very excited to be joining forces like this and expanding coverage for all kids with developmental and behavioral issues across the state,” said Dr. David Elkin, UMMC professor of psychiatry and executive director of the Center for the Advancement of Youth.

During the next year and a half, UMMC will work with MCHS to develop a seamless system that minimizes the disruption of family life by first making it easier for these children to get to the appropriate specialists and then bringing these services closer to home. 

Elkin believes accomplishing these goals will “break the logjam,” ultimately shortening long waits for appointments.

Dr. Susan Buttross
Dr. Susan Buttross

One of the primary issues that the collaborative hopes to address is getting these children to the right provider to get the help they need. Behavioral issues often coexist with a multitude of conditions, including autism, hearing or speech difficulties, genetic anomalies, psychiatric problems, neurological disorders and many others, leaving families uncertain who to call for help.

Established in 2013, the Center for the Advancement of Youth serves as a gateway for these families to enter the health-care system. With access to an array of pediatric specialists, Elkin and Dr. Susan Buttross, professor of pediatrics, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics and medical director of the Center for the Advancement of Youth, quickly assess the child’s needs and send the child to the appropriate provider.

During the past few years, Buttross and Elkin, who offer behavioral health services at Batson Children’s Hospital and the Child Development Center, recognized a growing volume of families throughout the state who needed help closer to home.

Throughout the coming months, MCHS will be developing a network of clinic locations offering behavioral health services in or near the hometowns of these patients, sparing families the burden of traveling to Jackson.

“We provide that entry way into whatever this child needs,” Elkin said. “If that child needs genetic testing, they go to Dr. Omar (Abdulrahman, associate professor of pediatrics – genetics). If that child needs behavioral therapy and they’re local, we take care of them.

“If they need behavioral therapy closer to their hometown, they go to MCHS.” 
Dr. John Damon, Mississippi Children’s Home Services CEO, said the collaborative “represents a watershed moment for children and families of Mississippi.

“Not only will the quality of care be dramatically improved though the collaborative, but a care navigator will come alongside the families to assure they experience a seamless health-care system,” Damon said.

Childrens Behavioral MapThe grant will be used equally by UMMC and MCHS to hire additional staff, including more teams like Elkin and Buttross who can quickly assess and triage these patients.

There are also plans to increase the use of telehealth communications to coordinate care for these children between UMMC and the various MCHS clinic locations throughout
 the state.

“When children and teens across Mississippi have developmental or behavioral problems, their issues need to be addressed quickly,” said Buttross. “This collaborative effort will supply an entry point, a direction to the needed resources, and most importantly, eliminate the months of waiting to get help for something that should be addressed rapidly.”

Services offered:

•  Diagnostic Assessment and Evaluation
•  Psychiatric/Physician Services
•  Individual, Group and Family Therapy
•  Intensive Outpatient Psychiatric Services
•  Day Treatment Services
•  Patient Care Coordination
•  Community Support Services
•  Training and Consultation
•  Telehealth Services