Photo courtesy TTUHSC El Paso
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso’s psychiatry department is launching a telephone hotline May 18 as part of the newly created Child Psychiatry Access Network (CPAN).
Primary care providers will be able to call the CPAN hotline to get advice about child and adolescent patients with psychiatric symptoms.
Primary care providers, including pediatricians, family medicine physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, can call the hotline with questions about diagnosis, therapy, medication and referrals to other sources. The hotline will be staffed by TTUHSC El Paso psychiatry department faculty members and staff.
CPAN is a statewide program that is one component of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium (TCMHCC) created by Texas Senate Bill 11 and signed into law in June 2019.
TTUHSC El Paso was chosen as the West Texas hub and is receiving a little over $2 million to implement CPAN in an area along the Texas-Mexico border from El Paso to Eagle Pass. The hotline will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
Sarah Martin, M.D., assistant professor and chief of TTUHSC El Paso’s Child and Adolescent Division, said the hotline will decrease the amount of time it takes for young patients to receive mental health assistance. It offers a big improvement over the traditional specialist referral process, where a patient may wait weeks, if not months, for an appointment with a psychiatrist.
“Through this hotline, children can be treated at the onset of their problems, instead of spending months on a waiting list as their illness becomes more severe,” said Dr. Martin, who is a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, TTUHSC El Paso’s clinical practice.
In the CPAN, TTUHSC El Paso is responsible for a 16-county area that goes east all the way to Winkler, Ward and Crockett Counties and south until all the way to Maverick County in the Eagle Pass area. The vast geographic area includes approximately 200,000 children between the ages of 5 and 18.
“We lobbied to get this area as we wanted to continue the TTUHSC El Paso mission of serving the border community,” Dr. Martin said. “There are very few child and adolescent psychiatrists in the counties in our region, so this program will be the best way to reach those children that do not even have one child and adolescent psychiatrist in their county.”
The one-two punch of the Aug. 3 tragedy followed by the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to strain on the mental health of children and adolescents.
“Whenever there are tragedies in a population, rates of trauma related mental health problems increase,” Dr. Martin said. “The recovery of our community in relation to the August 3 shooting will likely have two phases- acute phase where the fear of another shooting is intense- this is a phase where many people seek short periods of therapy services. The second phase is delayed and longer lasting. In studies done in other communities that have had tragedies, the effects peak as late as three years after the incident.
“These delayed and long-lasting symptoms are the ones that require significant mental health treatment,” Dr. Martin continued. “The COVID 19 pandemic has also caused fear in our community, but the social isolation and unemployment that are effects of the stay at home orders and social distancing will also likely put stress on our community and may increase the incidence of mental health problems. Seeing as there was already a shortage of mental health professionals before these two events, makes it more important than ever to improve access to mental health treatment.”
Dr. Martin is co-chair of the Texas CPAN working group, which is implementing the program state-wide. Dr. Martin also is director of TTUHSC El Paso’s Senate Bill 11 projects.
Primary care providers are invited to participate in CPAN by completing the.