“Telemental” Healthcare and Today’s Youth, Why It’s Important

You are probably already aware that approximately 20% of young people in the United States ages 9-17 have diagnosable psychiatric disorders. But did you know, a large fraction of this group are in medical shortage areas, leaving receiving the care they need nearly impossible to obtain? Also, experts have reported that as the number of mental health cases climb, there are not enough behavioral health specialists to provide care. The need is clear and urgent. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports in 2014 more than 2.7 million children suffered a major depressive episode. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 children under age 14 committed suicide that same year. Online engagement solutions are paving the way for behavioral health specialists, and how they are able to reach today’s youth. This solution is a way of providing mental health care to everyone, and depending on your practicing state’s regulations, regardless of location.

According to information from the American Academy of Childhood and Adolescent Psychiatry, in the vast majority of U.S. states, there are fewer than 17 practicing pediatric psychiatrists per 100,000 children age 17 or younger. Connecticut is one of just nine states where the shortage is not quite as severe, but it is still categorized as high, which by the academy’s standards means having somewhere between 18 and 46 practicing pediatric psychiatrists per 100,000 children. Due to this shortage of behavioral health specialists and growing need for adolescent mental health care, The American Telemedicine Association has responded with new guidelines on child telemental health.  The new guidelines for child and adolescent telemental health focus on administrative guidelines, legal issues, technology consideration, ethical factors and patient appropriateness. The document also breaks down the potential for telemental health interventions with youth, and the general assessments and psychological testing, pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy approaches and case management. These guidelines will provide insight on how to go about reaching today’s youth through online engagement solutions.

This new set of guidelines hopes to help advance telemedicine and to ensure the uniform quality of service to clients.  In a statement released by The American Telemedicine Association, the organization laments, “These guidelines, based on clinical and empirical experience, are developed by work groups that include experts from the field and other strategic stakeholders and designed to serve as both an operational reference and an educational tool to aid in providing appropriate care for patients.”  The draft by the ATA has not gone into full effect yet, and is up for public comments and review through February 17, 2017.  To leave a comment, please visit https://americantelemedicine.wufoo.com/forms/q1j6u0pq04336x7/.