JACKSON — Mississippi officials hope that a $5 million grant will create a more seamless system to care for children’s medical, mental and behavioral needs.
The partnership between the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Mississippi Children’s Home Services was announced yesterday.
The effort, which aims to break down walls between medical and mental health care, will be funded with federal money.
“Every family whose child is in need of behavioral health care services will get help. We believe there should be no waiting door for these families,” said John Damon, CEO of Mississippi Children’s Home Services.
The idea is to create a centralized assessment center in Jackson where pediatricians can refer children with complicated medical or behavior problems. David Elkin, a psychiatrist who heads the assessment unit, called the Center for the Advancement of Youth, said UMMC is working to provide the tests in one day, to prevent multiple trips to Jackson.
Parents and children would then be referred to sites around the state for mental and behavioral counseling, and UMMC medical specialists would use videoconferencing links to provide advice and consultation to pediatricians in areas outside of Jackson.
Elkin said UMMC wants to work with physicians to solve complicated problems that require expertise or more resources.
“We don’t want to steal this kid from the pediatrician,” Elkin said.
He said 30 children per day are already being referred and more than 1,000 referrals are expected in the first year. The program will be rolled out over 18 months to 11 sites across Mississippi, creating a treatment center within 75 miles of anyone in the state, said Dr. Susan Buttross, a UMMC pediatrics professor.
“No more of the three-hour and four-hour travel to one center,” Buttross said.
Elkin gave the example of someone he is counseling in Franklin County and meets with Elkin using a telemedicine connection at the emergency room of the Franklin County Hospital in Meadville.
The $5 million is meant to build and promote the system, but Elkin said it will have to be self-sustaining after that.