Objective: To develop an intervention to improve the mental health referral and care process for children referred by primary care providers (PCPs) to community mental health clinics (MHCs) using a community partnered approach.
Design: A Project Working Group (PWG) with representatives from each partner organization met monthly for 6 months.
Setting: Multi-site federally qualified health center (FQHC) and two community MHCs in Los Angeles county.
Participants: 26 stakeholders (14 FQHC clinic providers/staff, 8 MHC providers/staff, 4 parents) comprised the PWG.
Data sources: Qualitative interviews, PWG meeting notes, intervention processes and workflow reports.
Intervention: The PWG reviewed qualitative data from stakeholders (interviews of 7 parents and 13 providers/staff). The PWG met monthly to identify key transition points where access to and coordination of care were likely compromised and to develop solutions.
Results: Three critical transition points and system solutions were identified: 1) Parents refuse initial referral to the MHC due to stigma regarding mental health services. Solution: During initial referral, parents watch a video introducing them to the MHC. 2) Parents don't complete the MHC's screening after referral. Solution: A live videoconference session connecting parents at the FQHC with MHC staff ensures completion of the screening and eligibility process. 3) PCPs reject transfer of patients back to primary care for ongoing psychotropic medication management. Solution: Regularly scheduled live videoconferences connect PCPs and MHC providers.
Conclusions: A community partnered approach to care design utilizing telehealth for care coordination between clinics can potentially be used to address key challenges in MHC access for children.
Keywords: Collaboration; Coordination; Mental Health Care; Primary Care.