New program aims to improve access to mental health services
Disorders of the nervous system frequently include symptoms and comorbid conditions beyond those typically managed by neurologists and neurosurgeons. For example, patients with Dravet syndrome can experience hyperactivity and impulsive behavior, while patients with muscular dystrophy more frequently experience mental health disorders like depression, anxiety and other cognitive impairments. Addressing both the physical and mental health aspects of neurological disorders is vital to ensure the best health outcomes and quality of life for people with these conditions.
Lack of mental health care
The World Health Organization reports 10-20 percent of children and adolescents experience mental health conditions, but the majority do not seek help or receive care. Upwards of 50 percent of people with disorders of the nervous system may have mental health comorbidities including depression, anxiety and behavioral problems. The consequences of failing to address mental health difficulties in childhood can have debilitating impact as these conditions often continue into adulthood. Unfortunately, while knowledge of mental health overlap with neurological conditions exists, access to mental health care is met with numerous barriers. A shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists exists. This drastically impacts the delivery of mental health care services to youth, particularly those with complex conditions of the nervous system. In addition, insurance coverage of necessary services is often limited. These barriers leave families without direction and, too often, going without necessary care for the best outcomes.
The vision of the Jane and John Justin Neurosciences Center is to provide “easily accessible, well-coordinated, comprehensive evaluation and treatment” to children with conditions of the nervous system. It is imperative that we remove barriers to mental health access for the patients under our care. That is why the Neurosciences Center has added a licensed master-level mental health professional to the department to coordinate mental health care for patients requiring these services. Samanta (Sam) Juric, LCSW will work with our patients and their families in order to direct them to the services they need – often completing necessary mental health intake procedures while they are in clinic for routine care with their neuroscience providers. In addition to improving access to care, our goal is to more efficiently connect our patients to behavioral health services throughout the region, including the Child Study Center, Cook Children's Behavioral Health Department and other local mental health authorities such as MHMR. Sam will work closely with patients' caregivers to assist them in locating in-network mental health professionals or psychiatrists based on health insurance options. With this added service, families under our care will have access to a care coordinator to help them with problem solving strategies, coordination of care, community referrals, psychoeducation, and emotional support/counseling. We have made it our mission to bridge the gap for children in need of mental health services in an effort to provide the most easily accessible and comprehensive care in line with our vision.
Samanta Juric, LCSW
Neurosciences, Cook Children's