VHAN Social Worker Connects Pediatric Patient to Needed Behavioral Health Services

Adolescence, those formative years between childhood and adulthood, can be a confusing and sometimes challenging time as young people go through changes both emotional and physical. It’s also a time of discovery as they learn to form their individual identity. A big part of that journey is sexuality, finding where they fit in and how they identify on the spectrum.

For many LGBTQ teenagers, discovering and questioning their sexual identity can be a rite of passage fraught with doubt and uncertainty as they struggle with the familial and societal implications of their choices. Supportive adults can be there to lend a caring ear and offer support and safety as teens navigate their way through these life altering questions.

As a member of VHAN’s coordinated care team, social worker Mary Brooks supports pediatric patients and their families across the state of Tennessee, providing an all-important bridge between patients, their parents, and their caregivers.

A recent case of a pediatric patient dealing with challenges related to her sexuality provided a textbook example of how Brooks and her fellow VHAN social workers can bridge the gap in patient care. After the patient came out to her parents, an acute anxiety episode led to an emergency room visit. Brooks stepped in to provide counsel and continuity to what can be a dizzying experience for both patient and parent alike, supporting the parent by helping them locate the right outpatient therapy services.

“A lot of times, when patients have had a visit to the ER, they are given several options for therapy or outpatient care, a list to follow up with,” Brooks says. “So, the parent goes through this list, and they’ve made two or three calls and every one of them has a wait list. It’s overwhelming, but I’m able to narrow it down for them. We reach out to these agencies pretty often, and we know their availability. I’m able to say, ‘Hey, I just talked to this provider last week and they had an opening.’ Again, it’s really just bridging that gap for them.”

In the end, Brooks was able to distill the list of outpatient options down to three providers that met the family’s preferences and had availability, providing calm and timely care in a highly stressful situation.

“The parent in this case was very happy that she was able to reach out to the one provider on the list I’d provided that was more focused in on what their specific preferences were,” she says. “It’s gratifying to know that the family felt supported, and that I got them connected to that next step after they’ve had an acute episode.”

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