Half of all mental illness in the United States occurs before the age of 14, with 75% taking root by the age of 24. Fewer than half of young people with mental illness receive adequate treatment. In our region, mental health diagnoses such as autism, depression, anxiety, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and behavioral problems are more prevalent than the national average. 

To support VHAN members and patients with behavioral health needs, VHAN offers a pediatric behavioral health consult line. Since 2018, we have handled more than 1,433 calls through our phone line. These calls included 361 medication consultations, helping providers prescribe the best behavioral health medications for patients who simply can’t wait to get the help they need. In 2021, we provided more than 28 psychiatric evaluations, shortening the long wait time for pediatric patients seeking mental health care. Many VHAN pediatricians report that the consult line service is the greatest benefit of their membership. 

Here’s one real-world example of how the consult line can change lives:

A VHAN patient named Alex [not his real name] was adopted from Russia at the age of 13. He quickly made friends and joined a soccer team. One year later, he seemed happy, but his adopted parents were concerned. They were aware Alex had endured significant trauma prior to the adoption and that he had been prescribed multiple medications. At the time, he was actively taking only one, an anti-psychotic typically used to treat serious psychiatric disorders. They knew little else about his actual diagnosis or need for medication. 

An attempt to taper off and discontinue Alex’s anti-psychotic medication resulted in him experiencing insomnia, aggression toward objects and defiance. On behalf of Alex’s parents, his pediatrician reached out to the VHAN Pediatric Behavioral Health Consult Line for a psychiatry consult to clarify Alex’s diagnosis. In the end, the medication was not needed, but it had disrupted Alex’s natural sleep cycle. The VHAN psychiatrist spent time educating Alex’s family on his diagnosis and worked closely with Alex’s pediatrician to put recommendations into action, including putting him on a low dose of a sleep medication. The plan has created a sense of hope and relief for the family.   

“We feel so much more at ease,” said Alex’s mom following her latest consult. “It’s nice to know we are not alone. We have settled into a wonderful routine, and Alex is getting exactly what he needs. You can feel so lost when things get off track. We are grateful for all the support. It’s good to know Alex is going to be okay.”