As children continue to experience trauma due to COVID-19, the Child Psychiatry Access Network (CPAN) can help physicians address the consequences. Along with its phone consult service – which physicians can access any time – CPAN offers virtual CME on various issues physicians are likely to encounter when treating young patients.
Demand for mental health treatment has gone up in the wake of COVID-19, says Sarah L. Martin, MD, a member of the Texas Medical Association’s Committee on Behavioral Health. To best care for pediatric patients facing mental health conditions, physicians can access both CPAN’s CME and its peer-to-peer or outpatient telehealth consultations.
“What physicians get is as much or as little education about psychiatric disorders as they want,” said Dr. Martin, medical director for the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium (TCMHCC) for the area of responsibility assigned to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. CPAN is one component of the consortium.
“Some people are just starting; maybe others trained 30 years ago when there was very little psychiatric education during their residency. So, they can start at a point where they feel comfortable. They can just watch the CMEs, but then they get the individual help when they call in.”
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio will host its next CME presentation on Thursday, Oct. 19, on adverse behaviors associated with ADHD, part of the CPAN’s current educational series. Learn about and register for this and other upcoming presentations on TCMHCC’s website.
Dr. Martin says CPAN’s services are especially helpful for primary care physicians, who have a level of trust with patients’ families not always afforded to psychiatrists.
“There are some families who would never go see a psychiatrist because of their personal feelings about mental health in general. We can help those pediatricians, those primary care [physicians] by consulting with them very, very often, maybe even every time that patient comes in,” she said.
“When a primary care provider gives a referral for mental health, only somewhere around 35% are ever followed through. If the physician can provide treatment in their own office, well, pretty much 100% of patients are getting the treatment they need.”
How to connect to CPAN
CPAN organizes the state into 12 regions, each of which has an associated medical school that offers CME. However, enrollees are not limited to their region or medical school for courses.
“If people want to get involved in the CME, they need to contact the medical school that they're assigned to and get on their mailing list,” Dr. Martin said. “Once you’ve done that, you can also get on the mailing list of the schools that are not even in your region, if you want.”
TCMHCC’s CPAN webpage offers an interactive map with step-by-step instructions on enrolling, which can be done by calling (888) 901-2726 on weekdays, 8 am-5 pm. Primary care physicians in Texas who see patients 21 years of age and under are eligible to enroll.
Dr. Martin says engagement with the program encourages continued funding from the state, to which the consortium directly answers.
“Every time somebody calls, it is proof that the work we are doing and the money that the legislature is putting into this program is being utilized appropriately,” she said. “We also count up how many people attend our CME sessions.”
Whichever way physicians use CPAN, they’re actively improving chances that patients in need get adequate mental health support, Dr. Martin says.
“What we're seeing for the people who call a lot is that they are getting more and more comfortable with more complicated patients,” she said. “All the professional associations for family medicine and pediatrics highly support treating uncomplicated psychiatric problems. Because of course, if you don't treat them, then they become complicated. The hope is that we're preventing the future burden of illness.”