Tuesday, January 26, 2021
  Community

By News and Internal Communications

By Dimitra Trejo

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – UTRGV and the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium (TCMHCC) are partnering to help area adolescents address the mental health challenges they may be facing, especially amid the challenges of the pandemic.

Jose Martin Rodriguez, program manager for the TCMHCC program at the UTRGV School of Medicine, said the project is more important now than ever.

“This is a robust project that was made possible through the support of our state legislators who passed Senate Bill 11 during the previous legislative session,” Rodriguez said.  “The intention for developing the services of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium was to try to resolve Texas school violence by providing more mental health resources. Nonetheless, we are already seeing the challenges the pandemic has brought on families and children. We know there will be an even greater need for mental health resources today.”

The TCMHCC is designed to advance the quality of mental healthcare and access for all Texas children and adolescents through inter-institutional collaboration, leveraging the expertise of the state’s health-related institutions of higher education, local and state government agencies, and local and state mental health organizations. 

“The Legislature intended for each of the 12 medical schools in the state of Texas to be assigned a number of counties so that this initiative could serve the children of the communities it was intended for,” Rodriguez said.

“Our UTRGV School of Medicine covers 13 counties and is extending resources in all five areas of the consortium, including Child Psychiatry Access Network (CPAN); Texas Child Health Access through Telemedicine (TCHATT); Community Psychiatry Workforce Expansion (CPWE); Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowships (CAP Fellowships), and research.”

 

ACCESS VIA TELEMEDICINE

UTRGV already has begun programs in the Valley with TCHATT by connecting adolescents with mental health services in K-12 via telemedicine.

The program allows licensed physicians at the UTRGV School of Medicine to conduct doctor visits via telemedicine without the students needing to leave school. This program is in partnership with Brownsville ISD. 

“TCHATT is such an important resource,” Rodriguez said. “At the moment, access to mental health providers is either not available in Valley communities, requires long-distance travel, or takes a long time to get an appointment.

“TCHATT allows us to see these young patients as soon as a teacher identifies an at-risk child. Once the sessions are done, we can refer them out to providers in that area,” he said.

 

EXPERTS CONSULTING WITH EXPERTS

CPAN, another resource of the TCMHCC, will help guide physicians in the field of mental health by providing child and adolescent counseling services through a 1-800 number. Physicians will have access to child psychiatrists to get secondary recommendations they may require with a patient.

“Before, if a pediatrician was struggling with a patient in terms of diagnosis or medication recommendations, there was no real system that would allow these pediatricians to keep these patients. They would have to be referred out to another doctor,” Rodriguez said.

“With CPAN, we are allowing the pediatrician to keep the patient and the relationship they’ve built with them. They can call the number provided and gather the information they need … like how to deal with stress the pandemic has left on their families. The primary goal is to make sure the patient feels heard and comfortable.”

Dr. Delisa Guadarrama, assistant professor of psychiatry in the UTRGV School of Medicine and medical director of the CPAN program, said CPAN is filling the gaps in mental health care in the Valley. 

"There are very few board-certified child psychiatrists in the region compared to the number of children and adolescents that need our services – now more than ever," Guadarrama said. "I am proud of CPAN because it means that kids can get help promptly through their primary care clinic, instead of having to wait months for an appointment.

“Through the grant, we are able to give physicians, NPs, PAs, etc., free access to psychiatric education, resources and real-time consultations to child psychiatrists,” she said.

Rodriguez, the TCMHCC program manager said that, moving forward, UTRGV and the TCMHCC will continue to provide and grow mental healthcare opportunities for the Valley through research and other partners including Community Psychiatry Workforce Expansion (CPWE), and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowships (CAP Fellowships).

“Through our CAP Fellowship, residents will be able to become psychiatrists through our specialties training program,” he said. “If residents decide they want to specialize in child psychiatry, they will be able to.

“We understand that when residents finish their training, they tend to stay in the location of that fellowship because they love the community. So, in an indirect way, we are creating a pipeline for more child psychiatrists in the Valley.”

The program, he said, shows continued promise. 

“I would say the consortium has come up with effective ways to improve mental health for the children of Texas. Coming up with these elements has improved the resources that were lacking, especially in times like this when children are going through a lot,” he said.



ABOUT UTRGV

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.