The Paso del Norte Health Foundation recently awarded Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso a $165,000 grant to assist with the launch of a program to improve mental health care for children and adolescents in the El Paso region.
The grant will help pay for start-up consultation services to establish the West Texas regional hub of the new Child Psychiatry Access Network (CPAN) at TTUHSC El Paso. The state-wide network is part of the Texas Mental Health Care Consortium created by Senate Bill 11, a school-safety bill signed into law this year by Gov. Greg Abbott.
“Senate Bill 11 initiatives greatly expand mental health care for Texas’ school-age children by direct care and increasing the number of child psychiatrists,” said Peter Thompson, M.D., chair of the Department of Psychiatry at TTUHSC El Paso. “The Paso del Norte Health Foundation is funding the TTUHSC El Paso Department of Psychiatry’s efforts to design and implement these initiatives.”
The Department of Psychiatry at the Foster School of Medicine will lead the West Texas CPAN hub. Start-up consultation services to establish the hub will be provided by the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute.
“We are pleased to partner with the Department of Psychiatry at TTUHSC El Paso to expand mental health services for children and adolescents,” said Tracy J. Yellen, CEO of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation.
“The CPAN program will be a wonderful addition to a continuum of mental and behavioral health support services in our community increasing access for children and families.”
CPAN will give pediatricians and other primary care physicians improved access to psychiatrists — including child and adolescent psychiatrists — and other behavioral health professionals to help meet the mental health needs of children and adolescents in the Borderland and across West Texas.
CPAN will incorporate telemedicine — teleconference and videoconferencing services — to assist with evaluating patients’ needs and provide pediatricians with expert psychiatric consultation.
This service allows children to be treated by their own pediatricians while expanding improved mental health care to young persons living in all areas of West Texas covered by TTUHSC El Paso’s Department of Psychiatry service area. The counties in this area are: Brewster, Crockett, Culberson, El Paso, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Kinney, Loving, Maverick, Pecos, Presidio, Reeves, Terrell, Val Verde, Ward and Winkler.
Dr. Thompson said CPAN will ensure the greatest impact for improving mental health care to children in urban El Paso and rural communities throughout the West Texas service area.
El Paso, and most other counties across West Texas, are designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HSPAs) in mental health. For example, El Paso County has only one psychiatrist for approximately every 22,000 residents, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. This shortage is even more acute for psychiatrists specializing in mental and behavioral health care for children and teens, with only a handful providing services to these groups