UAMS, Arkansas Children’s launch program to improve mental health care for children

November 21-27, 2022

By The Daily Record Staff


The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has been awarded more than $2 million in federal grant money to equip and support primary care providers across the state to screen, diagnose, treat and refer children with behavioral health conditions.


 With the grant money, the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, under an agreement with Arkansas Children’s, is developing a program called Children of Arkansas Mental Health in Primary Care (CHAMP), officials announced on Nov. 3.


 The program’s primary goal is to promote the integration of behavioral health in pediatric primary care in Arkansas by linking primary care physicians around the state with a pediatric mental health care team for initial and ongoing education, consultation and referral of patients who are under 18 and have behavioral health needs.


The pediatric mental health care team will consist of a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a pediatric psychologist and a care manager. The team will work with a curriculum specialist and a diverse, interdisciplinary educational team to develop the curriculum and conduct sessions using a network-based learning and guided practice model for medical education.


“Pediatric mental and behavioral health is a pandemic in this country. With this large, four-year grant, UAMS and Arkansas Children’s can start to develop the best approaches to enable primary care providers to detect issues earlier and treat and refer more efficiently to make a real and lasting impact for society,” said William J. Steinbach, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics and associate dean for child health in the UAMS College of Medicine and pediatrician-in-chief at Arkansas Children’s.


 Arkansas Children’s will serve as the program manager in collaboration with the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and the Arkansas Department of Health.


 The Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded the grant funds as part of its ongoing effort to help providers improve access to pediatric mental health services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable.


“This program will allow us to set up much-needed support for primary care providers around the state who are the first point of contact for many of these children,” said Chris E. Smith, M.D., professor and vice chair for primary care in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and medical director of primary care services at Arkansas Children’s. He will serve as the principal investigator for the grant.


 The initial group of providers targeted through CHAMP will be those in practices that are a part of the Arkansas Children’s Care Network (ACCN), which has 30 pediatric practices and 160 general pediatricians in its network and plans to add an additional 100 family practice providers around the state.


The grant provides $445,000 each year for four years, with an additional $300,000 in additional expansion funds provided the first year, for a total of $2,080,000 over four years, in addition to any non-federal matching funds.


 The CHAMP project will focus its first year on building a foundation, including assembling and hiring staff, conducting a needs survey of providers in the network, conducting patient focus groups, designing curriculum for sessions, and establishing a telehealth process.


 The second year will focus on analysis of the program’s first year’s results and expansion to additional practices; the third year, consolidation and expansion; and the fourth year, sustainability, including expansion of the program to additional community providers.


 A CHAMP advisory committee will include the Arkansas Children’s Care Network; the UAMS Department of Psychiatry; the Arkansas Department of Health; the Arkansas Department of Human Services; the director of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion at Arkansas Children’s; the UAMS Department of Pediatrics’ developmental and behavioral pediatrics division; Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Arkansas; the Arkansas chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians; the Arkansas Behavioral Health Integration Network; the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health;  Arkansas Children’s Community Engagement; and the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership.  


Photo Caption;


Drs. William Steinbach (left) and Chris Smith, chair and vice chair of UAMS College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics. Under an agreement with Arkansas Children's, the UAMS Department of Pediatrics plans to use a $2 million federal grant to develop a program called Children of Arkansas Mental Health in Primary Care (CHAMP).