Post-Newtown program helps children get mental health care

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By Arielle Levin Becker |

Until recently, finding care for a patient with mental health needs often required that Dr. Sandra Carbonari undertake a time-consuming search for a suitable therapist – one who took the family’s insurance and had open appointments.

It often meant after-hours phone calls and counting on the mercies of overbooked colleagues. “And you can only call the same people so many times and beg,” said Carbonari, who practices in Waterbury and serves as president of the Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Now she and many other Connecticut pediatricians get it done with one phone call.

Her call goes to a team of psychiatrists and other professionals whose job it is to consult with pediatric primary care providers. In some cases, they help find specialty services for children who need them. In others, they offer guidance to help a pediatrician treat a young person’s mental health issue without referring to a specialist.

It’s part of a state-funded program, ACCESS Mental Health CT, created as part of the controversial gun-control legislation passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting. In the program’s first year – it began operating in June 2014 – the teams conducted 5,133 “consultative activities” for 181 pediatric and family medicine practices, involving 1,234 patients under 23. Sixty percent of the interactions involved young people with diagnoses of anxiety, depressive disorders or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder…for more

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