Washington, DC – On August 15, Finza Latif, MD, Director, Pediatric Psychiatry Consultation-Liaison and Emergency Services at Children’s National Health System, participated in a congressional briefing titled, “Children’s Mental Health: The Importance of Early Identification and Intervention.”
National statistics show one in five American children will suffer from a mental health condition before the age of eighteen. Only 20 percent of those children will receive any treatment, and often, the diagnosis and intervention is delayed. Even with federal efforts for mental health parity, barriers such as stigma and a shortage of mental health providers continue to persist.
Because many mental health conditions begin in adolescence or childhood, early identification and treatment can lead to improved quality of life as an adult. Yet, “children’s mental health is one of the most underserved areas in medicine. It’s understaffed, it’s underfunded, and it’s poorly reimbursed by insurance, and so, when care is available, it’s often delayed,” says Dr. Latif.
Dr. Latif and the other panelists advocated for increased funding for research as well as the need to expand successful programs currently in place, such as the child psychiatry access programs, utilized by many states and federal programs like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Child Mental Health Initiative. They advised policymakers and legislative staff that the shortage of mental health providers can be addressed through areas such as telemedicine, collaborative care and school-based mental health programs, and incentives for students pursuing careers in mental health.
Dr. Latif also spoke of the need to think and talk about mental health conditions as any other medical condition. “Removing the stigma of mental illness is very important because many families do not come in for treatment, if it’s available, because of the stigma that’s associated with it,” she says. “Just like the treatment for obesity or diabetes, treatment for mental illness as a child can improve a person’s quality of life.”
Mario Hernandez, PhD, of the University of South Florida, and moderator, Tamar Magarik Haro, Associate Director, Department of Federal Affairs, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), also participated.
The briefing was held in cooperation with the Congressional Children’s Health Care Caucus and sponsored by the Children’s Hospital Association, the AAP, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Family Voice, First Focus, Children’s Defense Fund, and the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families.
Contact: Caitlyn Camacho at 202-476-4500.
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