Yang Y, Dillon EC, Li M, Li J, Erlich KJ, Heneghan AM, Becker DF., Transl Behav Med. 9(3):549-559. doi: 10.1093/tbm/ibz049., 2019 May 16
Approximately 49.5% of the adolescents report a mental health disorder; only about half of the children and adolescents with mental health disorders seek treatment from a mental health professional. Stigma and poor access to behavioral health providers are leading barriers to care.
A large ambulatory health system implemented a BH navigation program to facilitate referrals from primary care physicians (PCPs), including pediatricians and family physicians, to BH providers. We studied PCP adoption of BH navigation services over a 4-year period, from July 2014 to June 2018.
We retrieved operational data regarding service utilization, patient information from electronic health records and PCP information from administrative data, and surveyed PCPs for their appraisals of navigation services. Four thousand five hundred and fifty-five referrals were made for 3,912 patients from 290 PCPs (71% of PCPs in the health system). Depression (39%), anxiety (25%), and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (7%) were the most frequent reasons for referral. Referrals increased dramatically in the first half of the study period and decreased afterwards.
Ninety-one percent of the PCPs agreed or strongly agreed that navigation enhanced their clinical care at 12-month survey. More than 90% of the PCPs rated the referral process, communication with navigation staff, and the overall experience as above average or excellent at 12 months. There was a decrease in these evaluation indicators after 2.5 years.
The initial high referral volume reflects a need for BH navigation services. However, challenges remain to maintain positive PCP assessment in the face of such demand.