Scope of the Problem
Up to 20% of children and adolescents in the United States experience significant mental health disorders. Only 1 in 5 of this 20% are receiving treatment. Though the need is great, there is a well-documented shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists in the United States. The high prevalence of psychiatric disorders combined with the paucity of mental health specialists places an increased burden on primary care providers to diagnose and treat children and youth with mental illness. As a result of limited access to child and adolescent mental health specialists, about 75% of youth with a psychiatric disorder are seen in primary care settings. It is estimated that about half of all pediatric office visits involve behavioral, psychosocial, and/or educational concerns.
Reflective of this trend, a growing number of primary care providers (PCPs) prescribe psychotropic medications, especially stimulants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, to children with psychiatric disorders. Yet, most PCPs report being inadequately trained to detect, diagnose and treat psychiatric disorders.
Our mission is to help primary care clinicians screen, diagnose, and treat the mental health and substance use problems of children and youth through training, consultation and referral assistance.
Illinois DocAssist is funded by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), and the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health (DMH). While Illinois DocAssist officially began serving providers as of September 8, 2008, the work is the culmination of many years of diligent efforts by individuals and groups committed to and concerned with the health and well-being of Illinois children, adolescents and their families. This includes the synergistic efforts of our state agency partners, HFS and DMH; the work of the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership (ICMHP), whose mission is to reform child mental health through improved coordination and collaboration; and the work of countless others--families and caregivers, educators, health care and mental health providers, child advocates, and legislators.