Weitzman Weekly

Spotlight: Project ECHO Pediatric and Adolescent Behavioral Health

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Agi Erickson (above)

This week, I talked to Agi Erickson (Manager of Project ECHO) at Community Health Center, Inc’s (CHC) Weitzman Institute to learn about the upcoming Pediatric and Behavioral Health Project ECHO. Project ECHO is a form of telehealth that brings specialty expertise into primary care through case based learning and didactics. Providers present their most complex and challenging cases to an expert panel and receive recommendation from a multidisciplinary perspective on how to manage that case while highlighting key concepts to benefit all providers. Coming soon, Weitzman will be in studying a new Project ECHO specifically aimed at improving behavioral health care to children and integrating medical and behavioral health care aged 3-21 years.

After months of planning, Project ECHO Pediatric and Adolescent Behavioral Health will start today, March 3rd, 2015. The faculty team is comprised of six experts from CHC and UConn Health. Over the next 4 months, the faculty members will videoconference with over 20 behavioral health and primary care providers from across Connecticut to provide a forum for case-based learning and didactics. The topics scheduled to be discussed are:

1. Assessments
2. Boundaries Within School
3. Legal and Community Boundaries
4. Anxiety
5. Depression
6. ADHD
7. Substance Use and Abuse
8. Comorbidities
9. Trauma
10. Continuity of Care

The idea of this project was triggered by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In a conversation with Agi Erickson, she explained that the Pediatric and Adolescent BH ECHO is especially important to her. As a mother of two small children, she was deeply saddened by this horrific tragedy that took the lives of innocent children and teachers, left families heartbroken and a nation in tears all looking for answers.

Like many other people, after the Newtown shooting, Agi wanted to do something that could ease the pain of the families and would prevent needless suffering. As the manager of Weitzman Institute’s Project ECHO, it was natural for her to think of the ECHO model as a tool for implementing change. The goal is to care for the children’s’ physical and emotional well-being simultaneously and catching signs of mental illness early and to provide timely and effective care.

Agi presented the idea of a Pediatric Behavioral Health ECHO to a pediatrician, the chief behavioral health officer, a director of a school based health center and the Chief Quality Improvement Officer at CHC. The support for her idea was overwhelming. Her vision united medical providers, social workers, and behavioral health clinicians who often work in silos. Their collaboration will begin the much-needed integration of medical and behavioral health services to provide children with the holistic health care they need.

During a moment when Agi was feeling down thinking about the Newtown tragedy, her 4-year-old daughter approached her to say, “Mom, you’re never going to lose me.” This message gave her strength and the determination to find new ways to improve the delivery of behavioral health care to children utilizing tools like Pediatric and Behavioral Health Project ECHO.

I hope that our conversation convinces you about the importance of providing high quality behavioral health care to children. This population is so often overlooked in our country and it is important that care is catered to the specific age group. Results on the impact of Pedi and Adolescent Behavioral Health Project ECHO are highly anticipated. In the future, we hope to expand the program across the nation to any institutions that serve children. For more information, please contact Agi at [email protected]

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