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Mental Health Care in the Places Families Trust

Dr. Lee Beers

The best way to learn about a community is to listen to the community. Dr. Lee Beers sees this truth every day as a Children’s National Hospital pediatrician. “We often hear about challenges before they show up in the data because we’re hearing it from our patients,” she says.

Families in Washington, D.C., face hard challenges. Poverty and racial health inequities affect a child’s mental health and are care barriers. These historic injustices nationwide have helped create a mental health crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened it into an emergency.

As Medical Director for Community Health and Advocacy in the Goldberg Center for Community Pediatric Health, Dr. Beers drives community health efforts through policy change and novel programs. The heart of her work is growing mental health care access in a place that families trust: their doctor’s office.

Dr. Beers spearheaded the Community Mental Health CORE and the Early Childhood Innovation Network to support placing mental health specialists in every Children’s National primary care practice and with early childhood center partners. The Clark Parent & Child Network extends this reach to support new parents’ mental health. “We’re there for families when they first have questions and concerns, rather than when it becomes a crisis,” Dr. Beers says.

This energy to partner for change informed Dr. Beers’ term as the 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics president. The academy’s advocacy to bring the COVID-19 vaccines to schoolkids — helping them continue the learning and activities crucial to their well-being — is a highlight of her term.

“No one person has all the answers. It’s important for us to work together, families and medical professionals, to make sure we’re addressing all of a family’s needs.”