Kansas City-area mental health providers are looking to reduce frustration among families seeking help for their children by streamlining the screening process.
The providers want to avoid asking the same questions over and over again each step of the way. So, they are hoping to establish baseline inquiries that can generate information for the use throughout the system regarding topics like social history.
The effort is part of ongoing work by the Children’s System Change Committee, which is part of the Regional Health Care Initiative organized through the Mid-America Regional Council. Marsha Morgan, chief operating officer of behavioral health services at Truman Medical Centers, chairs the children’s committee.
Repeating the same information every time a child sees a new provider is more than just a point of frustration for families. It’s also a waste of time, Morgan said.
“If every time you change providers you take an hour to two hours telling your story,” Morgan said, “that’s an hour to two hours you have lost in terms of actually getting down to the treatment or building on the treatment that has already occurred.”
As a first step, the committee is collecting forms from its members’ organizations to identify common elements.
The overall goal is to establish as seamless a system as possible, and they have an example to the north in the Circle of HOPE program in St. Joseph, Mo. The committee received input from Circle of HOPE’s clinical coordinator at its May 14 meeting.
The six-year effort, funded largely through a $6 million System of Change grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, finishes at the end of 2012.
Partners in the program include the local community mental health center, Buchanan County Juvenile Court and the Children’s Division of Missouri Department of Social Services.
The target population is seriously disturbed school-aged children in Buchanan and Andrew counties.
Circle of HOPE succeeded in developing some common intake questions that mental health and primary care providers have incorporated into their screenings, said Project Director Andrea Aderton.
The goal of providing a common form, however, “seems like a pretty insurmountable hurdle” given the varying rules and regulations governing different parts of the system.
Circle of HOPE benefited from the federal grant dollars, Aderton said, but money is not a necessity for an initiative like the Children’s System Change Committee to succeed.
“It doesn’t cost money to add a family member to your board,” she said. Nor, she said, would it be costly to have families make suggestions on improving intake forms.
Simply listening to a parent can have a dramatic effect on the child, Aderton said.
For instance, in one case, Aderton said the mother of a very troubled girl identified as her primary issue the need to get a driver’s license.
It made no sense to that staff, she said, “but they went with it, and once the mom got her driver’s license, so much stuff in that family changed. Then, the mom was ready to move on and get the child the help that she needed.”
Morgan said mental health providers might have a chance to access money through a newly announced grant through the same agency that funded Circle of HOPE. It would come through the administration’s National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative, which is expected to distribute about $22 million through about 60 awards.
That grant program would be in line with the committee’s focus on “trauma-informed care.”
Counselors and other staff are trained to be sensitive to the fact that bad experiences – such as sexual assault or domestic violence – could have contributed to a patient’s mental health issues.
A counselor attuned to trauma-informed care, for example, might ask permission of a patient before closing the door. Or, providers can ensure that a staff member assigned to a patient does not fit the same demographic profile as an individual that caused the trauma.
The committee is working on bringing in some speakers from the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors to town late this year or in early 2013. The goal would be to have the speakers address a broad cross section of the community about trauma-informed care.
“First you have to get a critical mass of people who are interested,” Morgan said. “That is kind of where we are.”