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Back-to-School Behavioral Health Check-Ins

InSight Telepsychiatry is the leading national telepsychiatry service provider organization with a mission to transform access to quality behavioral health care through innovative applications of technology. InSight has 2 decades of experience with telepsychiatry, and serves hundreds of organizations across the country with its on-demand, scheduled, connected services, and Inpathy divisions. InSight is uniquely positioned to offer scalable telepsychiatry services in settings across the continuum of care. InSight has a diverse provider team, a robust internal infrastructure and a history of adapting its programs to fit the needs of a variety of different settings and populations.
This piece was written by Holli Stayton, nurse practitioner for Inpathy, InSight’s direct-to-consumer division.

As summer draws to a close, parents naturally begin to consider back-to-school preparations such as well-checks with primary care providers and immunizations. As part of a holistic back-to-school wellness plan, it’s also important for parents to proactively monitor a child’s behavioral health and consider a mental health checkup in addition to a physical checkup.

The reality is that emotional wellness can take a downward turn as the start of school approaches. Reminders of school-related pressures are visible as early as midsummer as parents and children are exposed to an array of back-to-school advertising and school-related communication. These activities can cultivate anxieties and tensions well before the start of the new academic year, and it is not uncommon for demand of behavioral health services to soar near the end of the summer as parents identify concerning behaviors and begin back-to-school preparations.

Amid severe provider shortages, this increased need can create notable supply and demand challenges. Direct-to-consumer (D2C) telepsychiatry has emerged as an advantageous alternative that parents and children appreciate and value. A study in the Telemedicine Journal and e-Health even determined that telepsychiatry may be better than in-person care for younger age groups “because of the novelty of the interaction, direction of the technology, the psychological and physical distance, and the authenticity of the family interaction.”

The Behavioral Health Access Challenge for Children
Consider this all-too-common back-to-school scenario:
A child suffering from undiagnosed depression becomes agitated about the start of school in mid-July. As the weeks progress, parents begin noticing the child has become more withdrawn and is sleeping more. In August, the child becomes combative, lashing out at family members and responding to conflict in irrational ways.

The parents determine it is time to seek a psychiatric consult. Yet, when the attempt to schedule an appointment is made, they find out the child will have to wait 2 months for an appointment. During this time, symptoms continue to exacerbate, and the parents are left with few options.

Unprecedented demand exists for child and adolescent psychiatric services. The CDC has found nearly 1 in 7 children between the ages of 2 and 8 has a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. The statistics for preteens and teens aged 9 to 17 is higher—as many as 1 in 5.

Unfortunately, severe provider shortages, especially for child and adolescent specialty areas, are working against this heightened need. Currently, all states lack an adequate supply of child psychiatrists, and severe shortages exist in 43 states, according to the CDC. Some rural areas lack a single psychiatrist, and many behavioral health issues in children go undiagnosed or underserved.

For children who have a behavioral health diagnosis, it is important to schedule routine check-ins as part of a proactive approach to managing the disorder. Unfortunately, provider shortages make routine check-ins more difficult, and frustrated parents often let scheduling fall behind or give up. This often results in further disruptions in a child’s life and can require more costly interventions.

Fortunately, there is a better way.

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