Primary Care Doctors Treat One-Third of Children with Mental Health Issues

Primary Care Doctors Treat One-Third of Children with Mental Health Issues

One-third of children receiving outpatient care for mental health conditions only received care from their primary care physician, a new study finds.

Only 26 percent saw a psychiatrist.

In addition, 15 percent only saw a psychologist or social worker, the Harvard Medical School researchers found. The study found 42 percent of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) saw only a primary care physician, compared with 17 percent of those with anxiety or mood disorders.

Primary care physicians prescribed medications to a higher percentage of children than did psychiatrists. The researchers found 74 percent of children seeing a primary care doctor for ADHD received medication, compared with 61 percent who saw a psychiatrist.

The findings are published in Pediatrics.

“There just aren’t enough child psychiatrists in the United States to treat every child with a mental health condition,” lead researcher Dr. Jeanne Van Cleave told HealthDay. “Given that, any efforts to improve the quality of mental health care for children would be wise or appropriate to focus on improvements in primary health care, since that is where a lot of that care is happening.”

Approximately 11 percent of children ages 4 to 17 (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are only about 8,000 child psychiatrists practicing in the United States, and about another 600 developmental-behavioral pediatricians, said Dr. Mark Wolraich, Director of the Child Study Center at the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. “There isn’t any way that all of those individuals [with ADHD] are going to be able to see a child psychiatrist,” he said.

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Monday, 18 December 2017