DC Collaborative for Mental Health in Pediatric Primary Care

Health Priority:

  • Mental Health


  • DC Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Children’s Law Center
  • Children's National Medical Center
  • DC Department of Behavioral Health
  • DC Department Health Care Finance
  • Georgetown University

In this country, approximately 13 percent of youth live with a serious mental illness, but only about 20 percent of them get the help they need. While primary care providers are often positioned to assess a child’s behavioral problems early on, many feel ill-equipped to make the right referrals, prescribe medications, or manage a chronic condition.

To give District pediatricians the resources they need, Children’s National worked with other area intuitions to establish the DC Collaborative for Mental Health in Pediatric Primary Care.

Headed by Dr. Lee Beers, Children’s National serves as the administrative home for the comprehensive, city-wide effort. It works to support and/or implement initiatives focused on:

  • Supporting primary care practices and clinicians
  • Supporting families
  • Integrating mental health services into primary care
  • Engaging in related policy and advocacy efforts

Recognizing that only 35 percent of District pediatricians had a current listing of mental health providers, the collaborative’s first undertaking was to develop and distribute a printed directory of providers to streamline referrals.

The hard-copy guide then evolved into DC MAP, a phone consultation and referral service that helps pediatricians choose the best course of action on specific cases. And, in the fall of 2015, those resources were made available online at DCHealthCheck.net.

Learn More about the DC MAP project

Because most pediatricians report being least knowledgeable about mental health services for children under 5, the collaborative has increased its focus on infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with projects like:

  • A perinatal toolkit to help family doctors identify postpartum depression and other parental mental health issues
  • A parent’s guide to getting mental health services
To guide future efforts, the partners formed a working group charged with planning, implementing, and evaluating new initiatives, as well as a community advisory board to provide strategic direction and feedback. 
DC Mental Health Access in Primary Care (DC MAP)

DC Mental Health Access in Primary Care (DC MAP)

Staffed by a dedicated team of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and care coordinators. DC Mental Health Access in Primary Care (DC MAP) offers free mental health consultation services to local primary care providers. 

DC MAP helps physicians link families with needed mental health resources through a range of services:

  • Real-time phone consultations with mental health professionals
  • Online requests through DCMAP.org
  • Referrals and in-person consultations
  • Education and training for clinicians through newsletters, webinars, and lectures 
  • Medication reviews quarterly 

The provider-to-provider program was designed to answer unmet mental health needs in the District by: 

  • Increasing collaboration between pediatric primary care providers and child mental health specialists
  • Promoting mental health within primary care
  • Improving diagnosis and treatment of child mental health problems
  • Promoting the use of scarce specialty mental health resources for the most high-risk children 

Physicians can learn more about DC MAP, enroll in the program, or request a consultation, via DCMAP.org or 1-844-30-DCMAP.

Early Childhood Innovation Network

Early Childhood Innovation Network

The Collaborative’s Early Childhood Innovation Network helps provide mental health support to parents and families. The initiative provides training to obstetrician/gynecologists, family physicians, and the Mary Center clinic staff to screen new parents for signs of postpartum depression. It also connects families with home visiting services to provide treatment right at home and strategies to make family life more manageable.

Parent Guide

Parent Guide

The Collaborative has also developed a resource guide to support parents, families, and guardians.

Because seeking mental healthcare can be a new and daunting experience, the guide was designed to help families understand:

  • What to do if their child needs mental health services
  • How to seek care
  • Where to find care
  • How to navigate what can be a complicated system
Mental Health Resource Guide

Mental Health Resource Guide

The Child & Adolescent Mental Health Resource Guide gives DC’s pediatric primary care providers a directory of mental behavioral health resources.

Focused on providers in the District that accept Medicaid, the resource guide lists the city’s:

  • Crisis services and inpatient units
  • Perinatal mental health services for new and expectant parents
  • Therapy/psychology services
  • Psychiatrists
  • Core services agencies
  • School-based mental health services and advocacy
  • Alcohol and substance abuse programs
  • Family support and resources
Download the Resource Guide for Providers

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