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Addressing child and adolescent mental and behavioral health crisis is focus of grants received by KU School of Medicine-Wichita

With 94% of Kansas counties designated as mental health professional shortage areas, the KEEP UP and KSKidsMAP programs aim to help fill the gaps.

Dr. Nicole Klaus sits with child patient
Nicole Klaus, Ph.D., associate professor and board certified child and adolescent psychologist, is among the key personnel working with the KEEP UP and KSKidsMAP programs to address the mental health crisis. (File photo)

Interdepartmental collaboration at KU School of Medicine-Wichita between the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences has resulted in the receipt of two federal grants totaling nearly $3 million.

Almost $900,000 will establish a new program, Kansas Educating Excellent Psychologists and Psychiatrists for Underserved/Rural Youth Patients, otherwise known as KEEP UP, which will expand training positions for psychiatrists and psychologists in community-based settings to serve children, adolescents and transition-age individuals with mental health concerns and risky substance use. The concentration will be on training professionals in underserved and rural communities, and emphasizing cultural and linguistic competence.

The second grant of $2.1 million provides a three-year renewal for the KSKidsMAP Pediatric Mental Health Access Program. KSKidsMAP, run by KU School of Medicine-Wichita Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences faculty and staff, expands the ability of Kansas primary care physicians and clinicians to care for youth with mental illness. Through biweekly virtual case conferences, participants receive training on screening, diagnosing, treating and referring youth with mental illness. KSKidsMAP also provides resources, wellness support and case consultations with experts to those enrolled.

Though each program has unique goals and deliverables, they will work synergistically and with existing initiatives within each department to address the mental health crisis.

KEEP UP learners will receive graduated, supervised clinical experiences, didactics and mentorship from KU Wichita’s existing accredited training programs. Additionally, learning will extend to hospitals serving youth with severe mental illness and school-based health clinics, and will include collaboration with community partners focused on rural services.

“The KEEP UP funding will give us the freedom to develop more training opportunities than we had in place and add clinical services,” said Nicole Klaus, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. “We will integrate trainees into the KSKidsMAP team, so they feel confident supporting PCPs by the time they graduate.”

KEEP UP stipends will support 12 learners over the course of the two-year project with the goal to provide them the knowledge, skills and confidence to practice effectively as educators, collaborators and consultants.

“Both programs will help us build expertise at all levels of the care continuum from PCPs who see the day-to-day concerns of youth, to the most expertly trained specialists in psychiatric illness,” said Kari Harris, M.D., professor, Department of Pediatrics. “Through KEEP UP, we will effectively be building the expert pool with whom PCPs can consult through KSKidsMAP.”

Harris and Klaus both serve as key personnel for both programs.

Training across the continuum is important, especially in Kansas, where there is an extreme shortage of mental health professionals. Ninety-four percent of Kansas counties are designated as mental health professional shortage areas and mental health care disparity is apparent in rural communities. The number of youth suicides in rural areas is higher and increasing at a higher rate than for urban youth. Between Jan. 1, 1996, and Dec. 31, 2010, 66,595 youths died by suicide. Rural suicide rates were nearly double those of urban areas for both males (19.93 and 10.31 per 100,000, respectively) and females (4.40 and 2.39 per 100,000, respectively).1

With the increase in the number of youth with psychiatric disorders, there is a greater need to provide rural and frontier PCPs with additional tools and resources. KEEP UP will address this by including rural training as part of the curriculum for learners. KSKidsMAP currently reaches PCPs in 80% of Kansas counties with a goal to expand.

The grant funding for both programs is through the Health Resources & Services Administration, with KEEP UP supported by the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training-Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults Program for Professionals, and KSKidsMAP supported with a Pediatric Mental Health Care Access award.

1 Journal of the American Medical Association

KU School of Medicine-Wichita