Child mental health crisis: Mental health professionals with KU School of Medicine-Wichita push to educate more in the medical field

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WICHITA, Kan (KSNW) – The pandemic is causing a shortage of nearly everything from computer chips to homes and even child psychologists and psychiatrists.

Dr. Rachel Brown, chair of the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences for KUSM-W, said there are only about six child psychiatrists in the Wichita area. That is not enough to take care of the many mental health issues stemming from the pandemic. So the department is working on getting more health professionals educated on mental health.

“I’m a hospital-based pediatrician, so I work in the hospital and make rounds,” said Dr. Brian Pate, the chair of the Department of Pediatrics at KU School of Medicine- Wichita. “And you know, sometimes over a two or three-day stretch in the hospital, I’ll see four or five kids with suicide attempts in the hospital.”

Dr. Pate said nationally, they see double the suicide rates, and with a growing need for mental health care, there are not enough resources in Kansas.

“We’ve seen an upsurge in the need for mental health services,” Dr. Brown said.

Dr. Pate said 99 Kansas counties are underserved for children’s mental health care. In partnership with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), the Department of Pediatrics and Department of Psychiatry with KUSM-W are educating Kansas health professionals.

“The longer they’re in practice, the more they realize how much mental health care that they actually do in the context of taking care of a whole person,” said Dr. Brown.

The KSKidsMAP now has providers from 43 counties in the state, educating medical staff through regular clinic video calls. Even a hotline pediatrician can call at any time for advice from those in the mental health field.

“We are really right in the middle of this battle and trying to enhance our resources right at the same time that the burden of illness is increasing,” Dr. Pate said. “So I don’t have a sense that we are seeing the needle move the way right now that we need it to move.”

KUSM-W is also working to bring mental health clinics to schools around Kansas and also pushing to get people in Kansas into the mental health field.

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