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mental health, substance abuse, children and adolescents

New research has many experts calling for mental health and substance abuse benefit integration for children and adolescents. These problems are delivered most effectively through the primary medical care setting, and that is especially true with younger age groups like children and adolescents. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles have confirmed that this is the most beneficial relationship. According to the researchers integrating mental health and substance abuse benefits into the primary care model improved outcomes by as much as 66% for children and adolescents. UCLA professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, lead study author, and UCLA Youth Stress and Mood Program director Joan Asarnow, Ph.D. explains “The take-home message is that integrated care works. Kids and teens do better than they otherwise would. That’s promising because we have a huge mental health problem in this country.”

Dr. Lonnie Zeltzer, UCLA distinguished professor of pediatrics, anesthesiology, psychiatry, and biobehavioral sciences and a study co-author, discussed the integration of mental health and substance abuse into primary care models for children and adolescents. “The old model has been that if your child has a medical problem, he or she goes to the pediatrician. But mental health was often not addressed, or if it was, patients were referred to a mental health specialist, and the child’s health insurance determined whether or not the child had access to the mental health specialist as well as the quality of that care. Children of poorer families lost out.” Asarnow also stated “Integrated approaches bring mental health care to a setting where kids already are, reducing barriers to mental health care such as stigma or the practical complications of shifting to a different care setting.”