Article by Kortinae Lozano, UT Health San Antonio
As part of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio) serves as the region’s coordinating and provider site for Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine (TCHATT), a program integrated within schools that provides mental and behavioral health care for students.
The Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, part of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UT Health San Antonio, covers school districts in 35 Texas counties. The team receives referrals from school districts, helping students to gain access to care much more rapidly than traditional referrals to overstretched mental health providers in the community.
“Response to TCHATT in our region has been tremendous, and we have expanded our staff’s availability to meet it. In the past five months alone, we received 1,200 referrals and have been able to offer timely services to all families who want to get care through TCHATT,” said Joseph C. Blader, PhD, Meadows Foundation and Semp Russ Professor of Child Psychiatry in the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine. “This is very gratifying because we know many families have tried to get service and have been frustrated by long wait times, financial issues and other barriers to care.”
All services offered by the program are provided via telemedicine. This approach seeks to overcome barriers to care that result from distance to service settings, and the burden on families to take time from work and other commitments to get the help their children need.
In addition, all TCHATT services are offered without cost to families, and student information remains confidential and is only shared when parents explicitly provide consent to release information.
The same team spearheading the integration of the program within local school districts also leads the Child Psychiatry Access Network (CPAN), a program that connects pediatricians to psychiatric consultants for patient guidance on behavioral health diagnosis and management.
UT Health San Antonio TCHATT will continue to collaborate with school staff members to identify and assess behavioral health needs of students, prioritizing the needs and care of at-risk children and adolescents who lack access to mental health care services in their communities.
“We hope that every school district in the state at least considers linking up with TCHATT,” Dr. Blader said. “There are several enhancements that we aim to have underway in the coming months, including support groups focused on hardships families experienced because of the COVID pandemic, specialized services for youth having problems with alcohol and drug use, major anxiety that interferes with school attendance and other activities, and working with interested school districts to offer an effective mental health awareness program to all students in the 13- to 15-year-old age range.”
For more information on TCHATT, CPAN and the Long School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences’ involvement with the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium, visit https://lsom.uthscsa.edu/psychiatry/clinical-programs/cpan-tchatt/.