Integrating Mental Health into Primary Care to Transform Youth Mental Health Services—Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield

Children's mental health issues are common but often under-recognized and undertreated. Services are often fragmented and providers are often unaware of the wide range of community resources and how to link successfully to them. The stigma and lack of community-based mental health promotion often mean that children do not get the help they need, resulting in a greater incidence of mental illness.

Janet Albers, M.D, and family physicians at the Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Medicine in Springfield are integrating mental health with primary care in the medical home to transform the way mental health care is provided to youth. SIU Family Medicine has focused on community outreach to public schools. This includes SIU’s Care-A-Van in Carbondale, a school and rural health center on wheels that provides teen-friendly medical and behavioral/ mental health services to students at partnering schools in the region. 

As a result of integrated mental health in primary care through SIU, school attendance has improved, patient engagement in care has increased and there are fewer appointment no-shows. An integrated team led by family physicians and including advanced practice professionals, behaviorists and psychiatrists within the medical home makes care seamless for children and families. Early screening of mental health is promoted and children’s stigma towards mental health is reduced.