About 55% of children with significant mental health difficulties receive treatment and up to 80% of children with sub-clinical symptoms receive no treatment. Treatments are often not initiated until issues are significantly impacting the child and family. This study aims to conduct a pragmatic randomized trial in two non-academic health care systems to test a mental health family navigator model to promote early access to, engagement in, and coordination of needed mental health services for children. The first task of the study will focus on the implementation of a predictive model to identify symptomatic children with no diagnosed mental health disorder(s) or treatments initiated. The tool identifies patients with documentation of mental health symptoms or complaints in the free text of a progress note from a recent primary care or urgent care visit. Using this predictive algorithm, we will conduct a pragmatic randomized trial comparing intervention and usual care arm patients enrolled from Kaiser Permanente (KP) Washington and KP Northern California. The trial will enroll 200 patients per arm (n=400). Children with (1) a new mental health diagnosis but no treatment initiated; (2) a new mental health medication ordered with no mental health diagnosis; and (3) symptoms identified by the predictive model with no new mental health diagnosis or treatment initiated will be recruited. The study intervention will offer 6 months of support to the family by a mental health navigator (social worker). The navigator will perform an initial needs and barriers assessment with the family around mental health services, conduct ongoing motivational interviewing around mental health care, provide up to 4 psychotherapy sessions (when appropriate) via clinic-to-home video visits, help the family find and schedule with appropriate mental health providers in the community, and reach out ad hoc if mental health appointments or medication refills are missed. The primary outcome is the percentage of youth initiating psychotherapy. The secondary outcome is the percentage of youth with at least 4 mental health visits. We hypothesize that the intervention arm will have higher rates of psychotherapy use compared to the control arm. We will also assess initiation of psychotropic medications. All primary analyses will follow an intent-to-treat approach. A waiver of consent will be obtained to include data for all individuals offered the intervention in the analysis, regardless of the amount of intervention (?dose? of navigation) received.

Public Health Relevance

Mental illnesses often first appear in childhood and yet go mostly untreated until a serious disorder develops. This study will (a) implement ways to identify early mental health needs in children 4-12 years of age using free text notes entered into medical records, and (b) carry out a two-arm randomized trial to test if offering navigator support and video-based psychotherapy result in more mental health visits over a 6-month period of time.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Mental Health Services Research Committee (SERV)
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Pintello, Denise
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Kaiser Foundation Research Institute
United States
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