MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Health care for children is evolving with a growing number of pediatricians pairing up with mental health professionals. They are working out of the same offices and using something call ‘integrated care’ to help treat children for everything from a cold to ADD to depression.READ MORE: Weekend Forecast: Typical Summer Pattern Continues
With three children, Michelle Sermons spends her share of time at the pediatrician’s office. She’s also invested hours with a child psychiatrist. She recently discovered how beneficial having both in one place can be, and not just because it is convenient.
“The thing that makes it really great for us is that I can speak to either doctor and I know that they will communicate back and forth,” said Sermons.
Sermons’ experience has become more common. Most parents expect to be going to the pediatrician from the day their child is born, but few may think they’ll need the services of a mental health specialist.
“It’s estimated that as many as 20% of children have, at one time or another, mental health problems that will benefit from being addressed,” said Gregory Fritz with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists.
The goal of an integrated care system is to diagnose and treat children at an earlier stage.
“Pediatricians and other primary care practitioners have the advantage of knowing patients as they develop right from birth often so they can identify behavior problems before they reach the level of being a formal psychiatric diagnosis,” said Fritz.
“Unfortunately, it usually takes a long time before parents think to bring their children to a child psychiatrist…normally, something really terrible is happening at home or at school,” said Dr. Vincent Ho who offers psychiatric care out of a pediatrician’s office where his wife, Dr. Laurette Ho, also works.READ MORE: Tracking The Tropics: Tropical Storm Peter Forms
They believe the partnership offers a comfort zone for parents.
“With having a mental health professional within your office, it totally de-stigmatizes it. They don’t feel like oh my God, there’s something horribly wrong with my child. It’s more of a ‘let’s get your child feeling better,” said Dr. Laurette Ho.
The doctors note that emotional issues may show up as physical problems. When this happens, the pediatrician can direct the patient to the mental health specialist down the hall.
“Mood issues also masquerade as physical pain…stomach aches, headaches, chronic pain. A lot of those things are things that we can actually help with,” said Dr. Laurette Ho.
Another benefit noted is that if the psychiatrist switches up medications and the pediatrician notices side effects, they can talk.
“I can say, hey, you have this kid on this, that and the other and they’re experiencing this. Do you commonly see this as a side effect or is there something else going on now,” said Dr. Laurette Ho.
As for Sermons, she is thankful for the communication between the two doctors.
“Having my children treated as a whole is much better for us,” said Sermons.MORE NEWS: New Daily Virus Cases In Florida Lowest Since July
Another advantage to the integrated care system is the parents have better access to mental health professionals, especially those who help children, at a time time when there’s a shortage in this area.