AR Briefly

UAMS, Arkansas Children’s building children’s mental health training for physicians

By: - November 3, 2022 6:19 pm

Dr. William J. Steinbach, Chief Pediatrician, Arkansas Children’s Hospital

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences will use just over $2 million in federal grant money to bolster behavioral health care for children across the state, the university announced in a Thursday news release.

Children of Arkansas Mental Health in Primary Care (CHAMP) will connect primary care physicians with a three-person team of pediatric mental health professionals “for initial and ongoing education, consultation and referral” of minors with mental and behavioral health needs, the release states. UAMS and Arkansas Children’s Hospital are developing the program together.

A child and adolescent psychiatrist, a pediatric psychologist and a care manager will make up the pediatric mental health care team. They will work with a medical education team to build a curriculum that will help primary care doctors “detect issues earlier and treat and refer more efficiently in order to make a real and lasting impact for society,” Dr. William Steinbach, UAMS associate dean for child health and chair of the medical school’s pediatrics department, said in the news release.

The 30 pediatric practices and 160 general pediatricians in the Arkansas Children’s Care Network (ACCN) will be the first group of health care providers that CHAMP aims to help, the release states. ACCN plans to add 100 more family practice care providers throughout the state. The network is run by Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where Steinbach is pediatrician-in-chief.

CHAMP’s funding comes from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The four-year grant provides $445,000 per year, plus $300,000 in additional expansion funds for the first year, totaling $2,080,000.

The goal of the CHAMP program’s first year is “building a foundation,” which includes surveying the needs of ACCN providers, creating a curriculum for those providers and establishing a telehealth system, the release states.

The CHAMP advisory committee includes the Arkansas Department of Health; the Arkansas Department of Human Services; Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Arkansas; and several departments within UAMS and Arkansas Children’s.

“This program will allow us to set up much-needed support for primary care providers around the state who are the first point of contact for many of these children,” said Dr. Chris Smith, the principal investigator for the grant, the vice chair for primary care in the UAMS Department of Pediatrics and the medical director of primary care services at Arkansas Children’s.

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Tess Vrbin
Tess Vrbin

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri. A Midwesterner by birth, she graduated from the University of Missouri's journalism school in 2019.